Ocean Globe Race: Injured French sailor rescued by long-range helicopter mission

Dramatic scenes as the helicopter creates swell making the rescue of Stéphane Raguenes more challenging. Three crew members entered the liftraft to assist in the lift. McIntyre OCEAN GLOBE 2023 – COPYRIGHT FREE for Editorial Use. Dramatic scenes as the helicopter creates swell making the rescue of Stéphane Raguenes more challenging. Three crew members entered the liftraft to assist in the lift. Credit: Margault Demasles / Team Triana / OGR2023

An injured crew member from the 53ft French Yacht Triana, sailing around the world in the Ocean Globe Race, has been successfully rescued after a dramatic long-range helicopter mission.

The alarm was raised early on the morning of Monday (September 18 2023) when crew member Stéphane Raguenes’ condition deteriorated overnight from injuries sustained the day before.

Raguenes had slipped on deck in heavy weather, causing a severe laceration on the back of his leg behind the knee. Raguenes was taken below for immediate first aid to stop the blood flow. He was sedated and given morphine under medical supervision but remained conscious and talking.

The crew of French OGR entrant Triana (66) FR assisted Stéphane Raguenes into the liferaft before being winched onboard the helicopter and flown to Madeira for medical attention. Credit: OGR 2023 / Margault Demasles
The crew of Triana assisted Stéphane Raguenes into the liferaft before being winched onboard the helicopter. Image courtesy of Margault Demasles/Team Triana/OGR

At 7:20am UTC on Monday, the captain of Triana, Jean d’Arthuys, contacted Ocean Globe Race control to request an urgent medivac from the vessel.

The captain of the yacht had planned to make for the nearest port, but light winds and a failed engine combined to signal an immediate medical evacuation was the only safe option.

The rescue was carried out by the Portuguese Rescue Coordination Centre with support from the Portuguese military and the French Griz Nez Rescue Coordination Centre. The French yacht Triana was approximately 225 miles from the island of Madeira. A fixed-wing aircraft was dispatched, arriving overhead at approximately 3:15pm ahead of the helicopter.

The Triana crew launched one of their two eight-man Solas liferafts and the casualty was assisted into the raft by three crew: Xavier Haize, Titouan Dourmap and Max de Montgolfier. All four were then secured to the stern of Triana by a 12-metre line. Sea state at the time was a 2.5m sea and 17-20kt winds.

Shortly after, the helicopter arrived, and at 4:45pm, Raguenes was successfully winched out of the liferaft into the helicopter to continue the long flight back to the island of Madeira and awaiting medical personnel.

McIntyre OCEAN GLOBE 2023 - COPYRIGHT FREE for Editorial Use. Captain of Triana, Jean d'Arthuys, considered transferring Stéphane Raguenes to a passing cargo ship, picking up a doctor from another OGR entrant Neptune, diverting to Portugal or Las Palmas before opting for a medivac. Credit: Margault Demasles / Team Triana / OGR2023
Captain Jean d’Arthuys says he also considered transferring Raguenes to a passing cargo ship, picking up a doctor from another OGR entrant Neptune, and diverting to Portugal or Las Palmas before opting for a medivac. Image courtesy of Margault Demasles/Team Triana/OGR

At 6.30pm, Portugal MRCC advised that the helicopter with Raguenes onboard had landed safely at Funchal Airport on the island of Madeira, and he was being transported to hospital. He is now being treated for his injuries and recovering well.

“After the accident of our crew member Raguenes yesterday, I was worried with weak wind and still two days to reach Madeira, so I asked Don McIntyre this morning to launch an evacuation plan,” says Captain Jean d’Arthuys. “I thank Don, the OGR organisation and all the rescue international teams, French and Portuguese, for the incredible speed and professionalism of the helicopter and aircraft heli treuillage at 4pm today. Raguenes is safe, all the crew is happy, and we are now back on track sailing to Cape Town.”

McIntyre OCEAN GLOBE 2023 - COPYRIGHT FREE for Editorial Use.
Triana at the race start, 10th September 2023
Credit: Tim Bishop/PPL
Triana at the race start, 10 September 2023. Image courtesy of Tim Bishop/PPL

Triana was leading the Adventure Class and had been sitting mid-fleet, in seventh position overall and fifth in IRC ranking, before the incident. The Swan 53, one of the smaller yachts in the race, is sailing with a crew of just eight and is considered by many as the one to watch.

The Ocean Globe Race (OGR) is a fully crewed retro race in the spirit of the 1973 Whitbread Round the World Race to mark the 50th Anniversary of the original event. Starting at MDL’s Ocean Village Marina, Southampton UK, on September 10 2023, the OGR is a 27,000-mile sprint around the globe divided into four legs, taking in the Southern Ocean and the three great Capes.

The fleet is divided into three classes for a total of 14 entries. Stopovers will include Cape Town in South Africa, Auckland in New Zealand, and Punta del Este in Uruguay, before finishing back to the UK in April 2024.

McIntyre OCEAN GLOBE 2023 - COPYRIGHT FREE for Editorial Use.
Triana Team.Crew member Stéphane Raguenes on the right showing determination.
Credit: Aïda Valceanu/ OGR2023
The Triana Team before departure. Image courtesy of Aïda Valceanu/OGR

In a statement, race organisers say: “We would like to thank all the International Marine Rescue Coordination Centres and personnel who provided support to effect a successful joint rescue operation under very challenging conditions. The OGR team wish Stéphane a speedy recovery.”

Main image: The helicopter created swell, making the rescue of Raguenes more challenging. Image courtesy of OGR.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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