World Number 1 Ranked Mini Sailor Jeffrey MacFarlane Air-lifted to Safety:

World Number 1 Ranked Mini Sailor Jeffrey MacFarlane Air-lifted to Safety:


Thursday April 25, 2013 at approximately 7:30pm a Spanish Coast Guard helicopter lifted Jeff MacFarlane off of the deck of his stricken Mini and transported him to the Hospital Mateu Orfila on the island of Menorca where a cast was put on his left hand, which has multiple broken bones.

Friday morning the vessel was located approximately 15 miles from the island of Menorca and the Coast Guard towed it to shore where it will be hauled and a determination made as to if the boat is salvageable. This will be critical in deciding if Jeff will need to postpone his dream of being the 1st American in over 30 years to win the fabled Mini-TransAt race.

Jeff commented, “I am still determined to go forward with this campaign. While I never want to go through this again, I do know that I am capable of survival. I also must thank the Spanish Coast Guard, the Hospital Mateu Orfila and especially the hospitality of Sarah and Jeff Davis.”

“Finally I am heartened and amazed by the network of sailors and friends, led by my fiancée Laura Tillsley who through Facebook and Skype secured a ride from the hospital, a bed to sleep in and logistic assistance, which will result in my boat being on dry land in a matter of hours.”

Jeff is still looking for sponsors to share in his story and tax-deductible donations can be made to his campaign through his website Oakcliff Sailing where Jeff is a graduate of their Sapling Training Program.

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Full Report:
At 11:00 local time Jeff was almost half way through his 1,000 mile qualifying course, sailing with heavily reefed sails in 35 knots of wind when in quick succession the deck structure, keel box and mast failed. Subsequently, the boat rolled twice, once laterally and then she cork-screwed. In this process the longitudinal structure that holds the keel box in place failed and crushed Jeff’s hand.

Jeff activated his EPIRB and tried to raise assistance from other vessels in the area to no avail. Being a single-handed sailor means that one needs to be self reliant and he proceeded to search through the interior of the vessel, which was in shambles. The flares which had been secured in the aft corner of the boat were found in the forward point of the boat. The life raft was wedged aft. He dragged it forward and placed it by the companion way.

With the safety items organized, Jeff proceeded to cut away the rig, saving pieces for a jury rig as well as well as working to tie the rudder at different angles to get the boat to maintain a somewhat straight drifting course.

As nightfall was nearing he had given up hope of rescue and was prepared to bail through the night in an attempt to keep the batteries from being completely swamped and loosing the ability to use the VHF. At this point, a Spanish Coast Guard helicopter flew over and Jeff agreed to abandon his vessel.

Meanwhile in New Jersey and New York, Laura Tillsley reached out to Oakcliff Executive Director Dawn Riley and through a network of sailors on Skype and Facebook including fellow shorthanded sailor Ryan Breymaier’s wife, Nicola, a pick up from the hospital, a dry bed and loaned funds were secured within 90 minutes of the first call.

The mini, by rule and design, must have positive flotation so it will swamp but should not sink. The efforts made to keep the boat drifting in a straight line paid off as the boat followed the path towards the same island where Jeff had been taken by helicopter. The coast guard intercepted it just 15 miles from the port and towed it in.

The failure is somewhat of a mystery as Jeff had had just had the boat completely surveyed using ultrasound and x-rays and no weakness was found. He also had serviced and replaced much of the rigging.

“We are exceedingly proud of our Oakcliff graduate, Jeff and his seamanship and determination to take on one of the toughest sailing events in the world, racing alone on a Mini. He has the talent now we just need to figure out how to get him a boat that will stand up.” Dawn Riley, Executive Director Oakcliff Sailing

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