Saturday, December 20, 2008

Australian liberator vessel

This evening on French TV, along with countless other followers of the Vendée Globe around-the-world yacht race, I was overjoyed to see an Australian warship from Fremantle, the HMAS Arunta, in the Indian Ocean down near Antarctica, moving towards the yacht of the Breton skipper Yann Eliès, who broke his leg on Thursday.

Click the image to see a short video taken by another skipper, Marc Guillemot, who had spent the last 48 hours hovering alongside the yacht of his stricken friend, but unable to assist him physically. As a privileged spectator of the rescue operations, Marc Guillemot was thrilled to receive a Xmas gift from the Australian marines in their dinghy: bread, fruit and a bottle of wine! Overcome with emotion, Guillemot explained that dozens of dolphins surrounded the yachts at the instant the Australian navy dinghy arrived on the scene. He added that, although he's not in any way superstitious, he looked upon the gathering of these dolphins as an extraordinary happening.

After the rapid and expertly-executed intervention of the Australian vessel and her crew of a hundred marines, the French prime minister François Fillon sent an appreciative message to his Australian counterpart, Kevin Rudd.

This is a photo of the injured skipper, Yann Eliès, in the hands of his Australian rescuers:

Here he is in the dinghy, just before boarding the Australian frigate:

Yann Eliès comes from a Breton city, Saint-Brieuc, which I happen to know quite well. Christine grew up there, and our son was born there.


  1. Bill, It's a jpg file - no video....
    I'm so pleased that Australia was able to assist in this mission.
    btw I also know Saint-Brieuc, where I visited you what seems a long time ago.

  2. It was a great rescue. I think they were lucky though that the wind and seas had calmed down.

    There has been the usual "Why are we wasting taxpayers money...?" reported in the Australian press but I firmly believe that a real-life operation is much better than a number of practice exercises. And good for morale too.

    Well done everyone involved!

  3. Organizers of huge sporting events such as the Vendée Globe yacht race can no longer ignore the fact that search and rescue operations are likely to be complex and expensive, and that it's quite unreasonable to expect the navy of a neighboring nation to play a Good Samaritan role as soon as an accident occurs. Maybe the ideal solution would consist of accompanying the competitors systematically by a fleet of two or three "ambulance launches", financed by race sponsors.