Irish sailor Gregor McGuckin arrived back in Dublin on Monday and held an airport welcome-home party spellbound with tales of heroic adventures in the Southern Indian Ocean.
McGuckin (32) captured the world's attention when his yacht the Hanley Energy Endurance was rolled over twice by gigantic waves during a storm in the South Indian Ocean in September.
He had spent the last three years preparing for the attempt to become the first Irish man to sail around the world as part of the Golden Globe Race – the “Mount Everest” of sailing races.
But with his boat damaged and all hope of completing the race gone, he went on to attempt a rescue of fellow competitor Abhilash Tomy, an Indian naval commander.
Like McGuckin’s yacht Tomy’s vessel had lost its mast. Unlike McGuckin, Tomy had suffered a serious back injury and was immobilised, unable to make contact with race organisers.
The Golden Globe Race does not permit modern navigation systems. With only a hastily-rigged sail, McGuckin made his way, guided by sun and stars towards the Indian four days away in storm-washed waters.
However, a French fisheries patrol vessel, the FPV Osiris, got to Tomy first, before heading to rescue McGuckin. The two sailors were treated at a medical centre on Amsterdam Island, before being taken to Perth.
Thanking his family, his girlfriend Barbara and sponsors Hanley Energy, McGuckin said to laughter: “So I suppose you are really here to hear about the storm that forced me to retire.”
Recalling how 10 to 15 metre-high waves had broken his masts, he said he had to rush out on deck to cut masts and wires free, between waves, before the mast punched holes in his boat. The situation, he said, was not “ideal”.
Once he had cut the mast and wires, he said he retreated behind a watertight hatch and spent the next six hours wedged between his bunk and the hull, “so whatever angle the boat was at I would be safe”.
Asked if he was already planning to go back on to the high seas, he replied: “It is pretty early to be saying something like that . . . I think I’ll have to get myself back on my feet first.”