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Miracle at Sea: The Rescue of Tony Bullimore (1998)

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An amazing survival and rescue.
28 January 2011 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

It is a long time ago that I watched this documentary and normally I wouldn't have considered writing this review, except for the fact that there weren't any other reviews here, and this documentary deserves some praise, so here I go.

I will preface this by stating that I am a keen sailor and I am Australian, so I no doubt have a bias as to the extent and the cost of this rescue.

The documentary is well presented, with a lot of actual footage of the discovery and rescue of Tony Bullimore in his upturned sailing yacht, the Exide Challenger.

He had been sailing his yacht in the Vende Globe single handed around-the-world yacht race. When 1300 miles south of Australia in the Southern Ocean, with reported 60' waves Exide Challenger lost her keel, overturning the yacht.

The Royal Australian Navy had been out assisting in other rescues and was diverted to search for Bullimore and the Exide Challenger. As it had been more than 6 days since Bullimore had been heard from it was assumed he had died in the freezing cold conditions. When the yacht was finally found floating upside down there was still no indication that Bullimore had survived. The Navy put out an inflatable to go and check the upturned yacht. The rescuers knocked on the upturned hull and to their obvious delight heard a knock back to them. Shortly after Bullimore swam out from his precarious refuge inside the upturned yacht. It was an overwhelming sense of relief just watching this (despite knowing the result prior to watching it). The elation that was obvious amongst the officers and crew of the HMAS Adelaide was amazing.

Bullimore had been trapped in an air pocket inside the yacht. If he had stayed outside on the upturned hull of the yacht he would have been washed off or frozen in the gale force winds that he had to contend with.

There was a lot of criticism of Bullimore (and others who push the boundaries) because of the massive cost of this rescue. However, in my mind the sailors are being paid anyway, the HMAS Adelaide is being used, mostly just to practice their skills. This rescue was of more value than any normal exercises because it was real, because there was emotion and a life was at stake, there is nothing like the real thing to test our skills.


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