Australian yachtsman Shane Freeman has been rescued by a Chinese-flagged grain ship after his yacht Mushka was knocked down and dismasted 300NM west of Chile.

The transfer between Shane’s stricken Tradewind 35 yacht and the cargo ship Frontier Ambition is said to have been ‘a little tricky but all went well’.

Shane’s shore team report: ‘He’s had a shower and was being served a meal of pizza. He’ll land in Chile in three days time and from there head home. As expected, sea-cocks aboard Mushka were left open as he departed in order to not create any hazards for shipping. Many thanks to the Captain and crew of the Frontier Ambition for their assistance.’

On 17 February, in near gale-force conditions, Mushka was knocked down and dismasted.

Shane, who was en route to the Golden Globe 2018 starting line in Falmouth, was said to be ‘fine’. However after many hours of cutting away the damaged rig and attempting to get systems up in order to continue in some form, he decided to take up the offer of being picked up by a nearby commercial ship.

Shane Freeman preparing to set sail. Credit: Ian Mac/GGR/PPL

Shane Freeman preparing to set sail. Credit: Ian Mac/GGR/PPL

Having spent the entire day on the helm in very lively conditions, Shane set the boat up for the evening, putting in place his recent sail configuration that gives him a chance to sleep for a few hours.

He said: ‘I’d just gone down below and suddenly I could hear the noise of a huge wave approaching. Then bang – everything was upside down, it was black and there was stuff going everywhere.

‘I knew it wasn’t going to look good when I put my head out – and sure enough, the rig was down.’

After letting those at home know of what had happened and where he was, Shane set about cutting away the remainder of the rigging. On a slippery deck in rough seas, this took him more than five hours. As he dropped the bulk of it over the side, Shane kept items such as the boom with the view to perhaps setting up a jury-rig. Then he checked other systems on the boat and although the electrical system appeared to be ok, there was no life at all in the engine. Even with a running engine he had only around 100 litres of fuel remaining.

The Chilean Coast guard had been notified early in the incident and they offered to have a nearby ship divert and pick him up. Shane asked them for a few hours to assess the situation before agreeing to that. Some 15 hours later and with the situation about the systems on board assessed, Shane made the tough decision to be picked up.

On Saturday night following several hours of restful sleep, Shane made some phone calls to family via satellite phone from the bridge of his rescue ship the Frontier Ambition. He was feeling warm and rested and commented on how friendly everyone on the bulk carrier had been. The crew had all been keen to get a photo with Shane immediately after he climbed on board.

Shane Freeman aboard his yacht Mushka heading out into the Tasman Sea. Credit: Ian Mac/GGR/PPL

Shane Freeman aboard his yacht Mushka heading out into the Tasman Sea. Credit: Ian Mac/GGR/PPL

Picking him up from Mushka had been far from straight forward. The seas remained quite large but even so, the captain of the bulk carrier was able to come alongside the disabled yacht like he was “pulling up against a dock”. Lines were thrown down by the crew and Shane was able to get a number of bags of personal items up to safety.

Meanwhile he tried to secure a line to Mushka and that didn’t succeed on the first attempt. So in order to stay alongside, Shane needed to start his engine, which he’d luckily managed to get running an hour or so earlier. Now with a cut cooling-water pipe as part of the boat flooding process, Shane willed the engine to run well for these last few minutes without coolant – and it did.

Managing now to stay alongside, Shane finally got a foothold on a rope ladder that he said was moving up and down about 4 meters. After a precarious climb, he was on deck.

The sea state

The sea state

Making the calls from the bridge of the ship, Shane was able to observe the sea state from his now safe vantage point and commented that there was no way that he would have made the journey of over 300 mile to the coast in the current conditions aboard Mushka in the condition she was in.

Shane arrived at the Chilean port of Otway Bay on Monday, and is set to begin his journey home later today.

Shane Freeman with some of the crew of Frontier Ambition following his rescue

Shane Freeman with some of the crew of Frontier Ambition following his rescue. Credit: Freeman Sailing

Shane thanked everyone for the concern and best wishes and said on his Facebook page:

‘The bulk carrier Frontier Ambition – with me on board – arrived at Otway Bay, southern Chile on Monday. I have spent the last two days getting some precautionary medical treatment before getting on flights back to Oz later today.

‘I’m in good spirits and working through the bitter-sweet emotions that go with not achieving what I worked so hard for, yet managing difficult circumstances that could have ended very poorly.

‘Many thanks for all the best wishes, notes, and humour from all. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends, and generally decompressing back at home after 74 days at sea!!’

The single-handed sailor had set sail on a 14,500-mile voyage from Melbourne, Australia to Falmouth, England, on 12 December, in order to compete in the 2018 Golden Globe Race.

Shane is one of 30 entrants from 13 countries signed up to compete in the Golden Globe Race from 16 June 2018.

The race marks the 50th anniversary of the first Sunday Times Golden Globe Race back in 1968/9, which led to British yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston becoming the first man to complete a solo non-stop circumnavigation. The race limits entrants to sailing similar yachts and equipment to what was available to Sir Robin in that first race.

For the latest news on Shane’s status visit the Freeman Sailing Facebook page.