Mission to rescue badly injured solo sailor stranded 2,000 miles out to sea

Bethan Staton, news reporter

An international rescue mission is trying to save a sailor who is unable to move in a yacht drifting in the Indian Ocean and almost 2,000 miles from land.

Abhilash Tomy was competing in the Golden Globe Race - a 30,000 mile solo journey without the aid of modern technology - when a huge storm rolled his boat 360 degrees, cracking both masts and leaving him with a serious back injury.

The organisers first heard of the incident after a code red alert from the 36ft-long boat Thuriya said: "ROLLED. DISMASTED. SEVERE BACK INJURY. CANNOT GET UP."

The 39-year-old Indian navy commander has been communicating using a Yellow Brick texting unit with a battery life of days, and an operation co-ordinated from Australia is rushing to reach a position on the limit of sea rescue.

His yacht is about 1,900 miles south-west of Perth.

The first possibility for rescue currently lies with fellow Golden Globe competitor Gregor McGurkin, who was also battered by the storm.

He is now fixing his boat in order to travel around 100 miles to Mr Tomy's aid.

"The plan is for him to abandon his own boat and even jump or swim across to Abhilash Tomy, and provide immediate medical assistance," race organiser Barry Pickthall said.

A French fisheries vessel, Osiris, will then pick the two sailors up in the next 16 hours, helped by aerial photographs snapped by an Indian navy plane.

Race organisers say the stricken sailor is "as far from help as you could possibly be".

Limited aircraft fuel, the vastness of the ocean and adverse weather conditions are all adding to the difficulty of the rescue operation, and Mr Tomy's grave condition does not appear to be improving.

Since his initial message he has managed to send just a few more, saying he is too badly injured to reach the other tracking and communication devices on the boat, and may need a stretcher.

"CAN MOVE TOES. FEEL NUMB. CAN'T EAT OR DRINK. TOUGH 2 REACH GRAB BAG", one read.

Although he was able to reach a few cans of iced tea, Mr Tomy also communicated that he was unable to drink without vomiting and has serious burning pains in his chest.

Rescuers appeared confident that their attempts to reach him would be successful, however, with Mr Pickthall telling Sky News "I'm sure he's going to be okay".

Almost all of the Golden Globe's competitors were spared the storm, which hit with 80mph (112kmph) winds and 12-metre (40ft) waves on day 82 of the race.

Mark Slats, the second closest participant to Mr Tomy, was washed overboard and forced to put out a small fire caused by flooding of the electrics in his boat.

He said he had never seen conditions so bad.