The crew of 57.6-metre Feadship yacht W has rescued a man stranded at sea for five days off the coast of northern Spain. The 29-year-old man was found floating in a "pool toy" style doughnut raft at around 2.30pm local time on 24 June around 60 nautical miles off the coast of Malaga. He was then airlifted to hospital on the mainland and treated for his injuries.
Speaking to BOAT International, captain Marc Wellnitz recounted the "surreal" moment the crew spotted a hand waving at them from the water. The crew initially thought they were looking at a piece of debris and "the fact we spotted him was a miracle of its own," said Wellnitz, explaining that the man was wearing a black wetsuit and his raft was also black.
W approached the man and the crew "physically lifted him from the water" and onto the yacht, where they treated him for sunburn, open wounds from the saltwater and suspected early onset hypothermia. "He was extremely weak and not quite coherent," said Wellnitz.
It was determined there were no other people in the water. After contacting the coastguard, a helicopter was sent to airlift the man to hospital, which was a "challenge" but the crew "performed admirably," according to Wellnitz. "We didn't just rescue someone, we had to evacuate someone by helicopter," he said. "How does one train for a helicopter evacuation?"
The rescued individual is understood to be a 29-year-old Moroccan national. He was carrying identification, a phone and money in a waterproof pouch under his wetsuit. Wellnitz suspects the man jumped from a passing ship en route to Spain and attempted to swim to shore. "Anybody wearing a wetsuit [has made] a planned move to be in the water," he said.
The rescue mission lasted two hours and W has since continued her journey to the Balearics. The rescued man is expected to make a full recovery.