Andrew Taylor could have picked a better day to fall overboard. The seas were rough, the water was cold and there was a storm brewing in the distance. Actually Taylor didn’t fall off the “Derry~Londonderry~Doire,” he was tossed over when the seas caused the boat to roll to one side. It was March 30 day 14 of Race 10 in the 16-stage Clipper 2013-14 Round the World Yacht race.
When it happened, Taylor was on the bow assisting with a sail change. One minute he was on the deck of the 70’ boat and, next thing he knew, he was in the 10 degree water. He didn’t even realize what was happening. Taylor watched as the boat sailed away from him. He wondered if anyone had seen him go overboard.
Someone had. The skipper, the man he had been helping with the sail change. But, and a big but this is, they immediately lost sight of him.
“The moment he went out of sight, the Pacific all of a sudden becomes a very big place. We had our man-overboard position marked on the electronic chart which gives us a point to start searching from. So we started going through the motions and trying to estimate where he might have drifted to with the wind and the current,” said Sean McCarter, the boat’s skipper. “A needle in a haystack doesn’t even describe what we were looking for.
While floating in the water—Taylor wore a bright orange dry suit and a bright yellow life vest—he waited to see what would happen. He noticed the boat turn one direction then the other. He could see someone was up the mast. Taylor knew that meant they were looking for him, but he also realized if they were looking for him, they didn’t know where he was.
Taylor stayed calm and he waited.
“I don’t think I was ever scared,” he said.
He was, however, cold and shivering. He watched the sky turn dark over the ship and watched as the storm moved in his direction. First he was pelted with rain and then pummeled with hail.
“The hailstones really hurt. It was bad. They hurt my hands. They hurt my face.”
The storm passed and Taylor lifted his face to feel the sun. After a while he no longer felt cold and he knew that was a bad thing.
“The next thing I remember was hearing the voices from the boat. I heard people shouting and screaming. I turned around and there was the boat.”
The boat sailed by him close enough he could almost touch it and the skipper behind the wheel said, “Wait there. I’ll be back in a minute.” He steered in a figure eight and when he got back Taylor was ready with the shackle connected to his harness and he clipped it onto the boat. Another crew member was lowered into the freezing-cold water to help lift Taylor on board.
“That was an incredible experience too. We both knew what to do. There was lot of eye contact when I was in the water and he was over the side. We knew what we were doing. We were trained. We were prepared,” Taylor said.
Photos and video courtesy clipperroundtheworld.com