Golden Globe Race: Tapio Lehtinen Distress activation

Les Sables d’Olonne: Tapio Lehtinen was sailing toward Australia in the Southern Ocean, when at 0654 UTC, he activated Asteria’s EPIRB, 460 nautical miles south-east from Port Elizabeth in South Africa, while racing in the solo Golden Globe Race.

The GGR Crisis Management Team in Les Sables d’Olonne, along with Race Founder and President Don McIntyre in Cape Town, have been coordinating with the Cape Town MRCC and CROSS Griz-Nez in France.

At 0852 UTC, Lehtinen also activated his life raft’s PLB, indicating he may have abandoned ship. The life raft also has a VHF radio and GPS packed inside. MRCC Cape Town contacted nearby commercial vessels to divert to his position, with the closest ship 250 miles away.

Lehtinen’s life raft position on Asteria – Nora Havel pic

GGR entrants, Kirsten Neuschäfer and Abhilash Tomy, respectively 105 and 170 miles to his south/south-west, have been informed of his latest PLB position. Abhilash was first to receive the message and diverted course towards Lehtinen’s latest position.

At 0922 UTC, Lehtinen activated the emergency YB3 satellite tracking and texting device, which is part of the grab bag and at 1002 UTC, manually acknowledged the message sent by the GGR Crisis Team, indicating he was able and had the emergency grab bag with him.

The grab bag contains food, water and several critical pieces of equipment, including an emergency GPS, a Search & Rescue Transponder, a second 406 EPIRB and a handheld GMDSS Radio.

Lehtinen’s last message was at 1105 UTC: “I gave Asteria a last salute standing in the raft as she went down.”

Tapio Lehtinen aboard his yacht before the start

Conditions in his zone are manageable with light winds and 2.5-metre swell. With Kirsten Neuschäfer now en route and closest at 100nm away, the GGR Crisis Team have released Abhilash from the rescue effort.

Neuschäfer is motoring and should have favourable winds later, expecting to be in the zone on Saturday 19th November in the morning local time. Forecasts suggest moderating conditions over the next two days.

MRCC Cape Town has established communication with the bulk carrier Darya Gayatri and requested to divert and render assistance. The vessel is currently 250nm north-west off Lehtinen’s position with an ETA of 19 November at 1200 UTC.

“Our thoughts are with Tapio, his family and friends during this challenging time,” Don McIntyre GGR Founder of the race said.

“The South African Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre is doing an excellent job of coordinating the rescue efforts. Tapio is an experienced seaman, well prepared for these conditions. We thank everyone for their messages of support for Tapio and those who are right now involved with his rescue.”

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