62-year-old French sailor survives 16-hour ordeal in capsized boat off Spain

ITV News' Amy Lewis reports on how the French sailor managed to survive for hours due to an air bubble underneath the capsized boat he was clinging onto

Spanish coastguards have rescued a 62-year-old French man from the Atlantic Ocean, after he dramatically spent 16 hours inside his capsized boat. 

The man survived by using an air bubble within his 12-metre vessel, which had originally set sail from Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. 

After his boat capsized he was able to send out a distress signal, at 8.33pm local time on Monday evening, 14 miles (22.5km) from the Sisargas Islands - near Spain’s north west Galicia region.  

The alert was picked up by coastguards, from Spain’s Maritime Safety and Rescue Society - Salvamento Marítimo - who were unable to initially rescue him due to rough seas. 

As a result, the man had to wait until morning to be saved, while coastguard divers attached three buoyancy balloons, weighing five tonnes each, to the ship's hull to prevent it sinking any further. 

A rescue ship carrying five divers and three helicopters departed from the city of A Coruña to rescue the sailor. 

Upon finding the upturned boat a diver was winched onto the ship’s hull to determine whether anyone was still alive, to which the Frenchman responded by banging from inside. 

After deciding the sea was too rough to attempt a rescue the team waited until the following morning. 

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Once daybreak had arrived two divers swam under the boat to assist the trapped sailor. 

He was found wearing a neoprene survival suit and submerged in water up to his knees.

The man then swam in freezing water under the boat to reach the sea’s surface, where he was airlifted to safety and briefly taken to hospital for routine checks. 

Juan Ferrer, head of SAR Operations and LCC of Salvamento Marítimo, said the operation was “very exciting” because they were able to save the sailor’s life. 

A rescue ship carrying five divers and three helicopters helped to rescue the trapped French sailor. Credit: Spain’s Maritime Safety and Rescue Society/Salvamento Marítimo

He said: “Normally our team always goes after, when the SAR operatives displaced from the Coordination Centres can no longer do more. 

“This time it was different, because we thought we could save someone.”

A tweet later posted by the organisation added: "Each life saved is our biggest reward."