French sailor had no fear in leaping to rescue boat

AP News
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Posted: Oct 24, 2015 2:15 AM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The French sailor who made a daring jump from high up the rigging pole of his disabled ship to a rescue boat said he wasn't frightened by the 20-foot seas that were battering his sail boat around.

"I was not terrified at all but concentrate. disconnecting the heart from the brain, animalizing me," Emmanuel Wattecamps-Etienne wrote to an Associated Press reporter on Friday. The exchange though Facebook Messenger came as Wattecamps-Etienne remained on the Tor Viking, the ship that rescued him and will deliver him to Port Angeles, Washington, on Wednesday.

Wattecamps-Etienne made the jump Tuesday from his sailboat, La Chimere, after the sailboat lost its rudder, solar panels, autopilot and most every other piece of equipment in rough seas and gale-force winds about 400 miles south of Cold Bay, Alaska. He tucked his cat inside his coat before making the leap off the doomed sailboat.

He had activated a location beacon and then waited for help. The Coast Guard sent a Hercules C-130 airplane and asked the Shell drilling fleet, which was returning to Washington state, to act as a Good Samaritan.

The Shell support ship Tor Viking was dispatched.

Wattecamps-Etienne said it was an easy decision to call for help "laying down on the roof of an upside down boat."

When the boat righted itself, there was no engine.

Wattecamps-Etienne said that before the Tor Viking arrived, he fought to take out as much of the water in the boat as possible.

"But when you've done everything you can, that you just have to wait . try to imagine the noise of all this water moving inside the boat, under this mountain of garbage" which he said was his cozy home just a few hours earlier.

When the Tor Viking arrived, his jump from the rigging of the sailboat to the ship was caught on video by the Coast Guard C-130.

The video shows the sailboat lurching to and fro several times before Wattecamps-Etienne is seen jumping over a railing, disappearing head first before standing up as the video ends.

"I was, of course, waiting for the right timing, because there was not a second chance if I failed," he said.

Wattecamps-Etienne, 28, said his drug is adrenalin and a long time ago he "learned how to control those dangerous feelings of fear."

His cat has become almost as he has. He said Pipialup, or Pip to her friends, is bored. He said even in the fierce storm, she was jumping around and playing until the boat flipped over.

"I had rescued all kinds of animals in my sailing life, but this one has something different," he said. "She is like me, made to be at sea."

When asked if his sailing days were over, he said, "You're crazy man."

He plans to return to his native France, grab his bag and cat and go hitchhiking around the country to find a new aluminum hull.

"As a priest has been called by good, the ocean has called me," Wattecamps-Etienne said. "It's for life."

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Wattecamps-Etienne is trying to raise funds for his new boat with a GoFundMe site, http://bit.ly/1ONjFhL