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1997: Bullimore rescued after five days

The lone yachtsman, Tony Bullimore, feared drowned after his boat capsized in the Southern Ocean five days ago, has been found safe and well.

Mr Bullimore survived on "a little chocolate, water and sheer determination" crouched in the upturned hull of his yacht.

He is said to be suffering mild hypothermia and dehydration but is otherwise well.

His drifting yacht, the Exide Challenger, was spotted by an Australian navy ship.

There were no visible signs of life, but when the rescuers banged on the boat's hull, they were amazed to hear Mr Bullimore knocking back.

Asked for a cup of tea

Rescue co-ordinators say the yachtsman is very lucky to be alive.

He was wearing a survival suit which helped protect him against the extreme cold - but trapped in the boat's living quarters he probably had only enough air to last six days.

Mr Bullimore said his first reaction to hearing his rescuers outside his boat was, "absolutely ecstatic, I thought it would never happen."

Arriving on board the naval rescue ship, HMAS Adelaide, Mr Bullimore was said to be "babbling with excitement".

He also asked for a cup of tea.

His wife, Lalel, was told of the news of his rescue at the couple's home in Bristol.

She is now preparing to fly out to Australia for an emotional reunion with her husband.

She says she always believed her husband would be found.

She described him as a "survivor."

Mr Bullimore was taking part in the Vendee Globe single-handed non-stop round-the-world race.

Questions are already being asked about the high cost of the rescue operation and whether it is too risky to send lone yachtsman into the dangerous Southern Ocean.

In Context
Tony Bullimore was reunited with his wife Lalel at the British High Commission office in Perth.

He needed decompression treatment in a specialised medical centre for a few weeks after his ordeal.

On his return to Britain, he was invited to an audience with the Queen.

Tony Bullimore's ordeal did not put him off sailing. He filmed a TV programme with comedian Lenny Henry in which they sailed from Kent to the Caribbean.

In an interview in the Observer in 2002, he said he planned to continue sailing in races all over the world.

One good thing came out of his accident, he was put in touch with a daughter he never knew he had.

She made contact after she saw him on television.

I was there
As a Royal Air Officer on exchange duties with the RAAF I was on the Search and Rescue P3 Orion flight that first sighted Bullimore's yacht upside down in the Southern Ocean.

We spent days flying backwards and forwards the 1,500 miles plus from Perth to the yacht to update its position and, hopefully, give Tony some indication that we knew where he was - if he was still alive.

My crew was on the scene when Tony appeared from under the hull. That's job satisfaction!
Phil Buckley, USA

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