Sailor spent day clinging to life raft in shark-infested waters after boat sank

A sailor spent 24 hours clinging to a life raft in shark-infested waters after his boat sank, seemingly for no reason.

Tapio Lehtinen, 64, was sailing 450miles off the coast of South Africa while taking part in the 2022 Golden Globe Race, a solo around-the-world race that kicked off on September 4.

All was going well until November 18 when the sailor from Finland was awoken by a large bang.

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Soon water was flooding onto the vessel. Lehtinen said the reasons for his boat sinking were "beyond his comprehension" and that there was no adverse weather, but rather "summer conditions".

Speaking to Yachting Monthly he said: "Everything happened so quickly. I was sleeping in my bunk when I woke up around 8.30am. I woke up to a big bang.

"Although I was sleeping, I do react to the movement of the boat and I am 99% sure we didn’t hit anything. The bang came from the deck or inside the boat. I felt no impact.

"I have a safety net on top of the bunk so it took around 20 seconds to crawl out of my bunk and put my feet on the floor, and it was already knee deep in water. The water was rushing rapidly from the stern of the boat forward into the cabin."

The skipper remained on his life boat for 24 hours, stranded in the shark-infested waters off Port Elizabeth where several shark species including great whites congregate when it is warm. He had no food, water or medicine.

Luckily, Lehtinen managed to send a distress signal that was picked up by the race's crisis management team.

Two fellow sailors in the race, Kirsten Neuschäfer and Abhilash Tomy, were 150mi and 170mi away from him respectively and wasted no time in changing course after they were alerted to the danger Lehtinen was in.

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Neuschäfer's manager Jérôme Drnovšek told Newsweek: "[They] Changed course, [to] go find Tapio.

"There are dangers involved in this race, and they are balanced by the fact they would all do this for each other. No questions asked."

Lehtinen said in a statement: "Already before the start of the race, at a safety briefing in Les Sables d’Olonne, I told my competitors that if we’d get into trouble, we would be in the best of hands. I only never imagined that I would be the one."


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