January 2, 1995 in Sports

Sailor Explains Crash


Isabelle Autissier, the French solo sailor who was airlifted from her stricken yacht Saturday in the Indian Ocean, said Sunday that a huge wave had crippled her boat by rolling it over 360 degrees.

Autissier is expected to arrive today in Adelaide, Australia, aboard an Australian Navy frigate, the HMAS Darwin.

The 38-year-old competitor in the BOC round-the-world race told competition officials by radio that she was fortunate to have been below deck when the wave hit on Wednesday.

“If I had been on the deck, I would have been washed away,” she said, referring to her 60-foot yacht, Ecureuil PoitouCharentes 2.

The accident occurred about 850 miles southwest of Hobart, Australia.

The rollover filled the boat with water, and forced Autissier to slam shut a rear bulkhead door to keep the yacht from sinking. She moved her food and clothing to a forward part of the hull, where she lived until being rescued.

The force of being turned upside down caused part of the deck to cave in. Once the boat righted itself, Autissier covered the 15-foot hole with a sail to try to keep water out. She had no steering, and knew that her only hope for survival was to set off two emergency radio beacons. The satellite distress calls were relayed to race officials in Charleston, S.C. A Sea Hawkclass helicopter plucked Autissier from her damaged yacht three days later.

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