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Gold Coaster, Xavier Doerr Forced to Pause Round Australia Record Attempt

On May 4th, 2023, Xavier Doerr, a 22-year-old sailor from the Gold Coast, embarked on one of sailing’s most daunting challenges – a solo, unassisted circumnavigation of Australia aboard the 21-foot Mini Transat Carbon Fibre Race Yacht named GCCM, sponsored by the Gold Coast City Marina & Shipyard.

Xavier’s voyage took an unexpected turn when he encountered a fierce weather system off the West Australian coast, necessitating an unplanned stop at the Fremantle Sailing Club on June 7 for vital repairs.

But he kept going.

Sadly, his challenge came to an abrupt halt on July 7 in the Great Australian Bight, battling against 10-meter swells and cyclonic winds. Activation of his personal locator beacon initiated a rescue mission orchestrated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

LET’S ASK XAVIER WHAT HAPPENED!

After hitting something in the night, I found my boat taking in water, leaving me unsure if the keel would stay attached and if I had any permanent injury which was very confronting.

After the collision, communications were down. A huge wave tore away my storm board, resulting in further water intake. Thankfully, the extensive equipment onboard, courtesy of my sponsors, played a crucial role in preventing the vessel from sinking. Watertight compartments and huge amount of buoyancy foam in the bow and stern were instrumental. 6 onboard bilge pumps and a high-capacity gulper pump, connected to separate battery banks, aided in maintaining the water level, with credits to the electronic systems installed by Southern Seas Marine at GCCM.

Xavier and his destroyed sails in Fremantle Sailing Club

 

HOW WERE YOU RESCUED AND HOW DID YOU RETRIEVE THE BOAT?

Following a strenuous 24-hour ordeal and 2 thwarted rescue attempts, I was safely medivaced to Adelaide for medical care.

I recovered the boat with the help of Port Lincoln Fishing legend Graham Tapley and his crew (Bernie Henderson, Paul Dowd, John Hoey ) from Challenger, who embarked on a three-day mission to salvage my waterlogged boat, situated approximately 120 miles offshore. We towed her back to Port Lincoln amidst daunting conditions.

First inspection showed 16 hull perforations, lost mast and all onboard lines, deck fitting are destroyed. Deep scratches along the keel’s sides and top hinted at a collision with a marine creature.

I would also like to send out a huge thank you to Bill, Will, Dave, Dan and Helen, Wendy and many other members of Port Lincoln Sailing Club who were there to help. I extend sincere thanks to Nick Bice from Bar Karate and CYCSA for their hospitality and assistance in Adelaide, along with Lofty from Keels on Wheels, who brought the boat back to Gold Coast City Marina for repairs.

IS THERE A PLAN TO REBUILD AND TRY AGAIN?

I will be rebuilding “GCCM” at Gold Coast City Marina, with the intention of getting it back on the water sailing, however currently, I do not have a mast, the boat has significant holes, the structure may be compromised and my budget is non-existent. Nevertheless, I will rebuild “GCCM” to the best of my ability and continue to sail her.

After solo sailing 3/4 of the way around Australia, I am disappointed with the records so close, however I am stoked to have made it this far, and loved the people I have met along the way. I will be back bigger, better, and with a smile. I will be making every attempt to repair my boat at Gold Coast City Marina, who I am thankful to have as my incredibly supportive title sponsor.

My abridged shore team of Lee Randal, PJ Habner, and Jason Sintome, have also had a huge week, dealing with not only everything on water, but with the wider international media. They have done an amazing job, and I am hugely thankful to them.

I have been in constant contact with the AMSA team in Canberra, to whom I express my thanks. All agencies involved have sent their best wishes and wished me luck in my future endeavours.

My sponsors are people that support youth sailing, support me wholeheartedly and push the sport forward.

My major sponsors stepped in to help me keep moving from Fremantle, and I will be forever grateful for their ongoing support. They support youth sailing and push the sport forward. So, please contact them should you need anything for your boat.

Xavier and GCCM COO Andrew Chapman on
top of GCCM discussing repair plans

 

You will find them on: thelittleaussielap.com.au/sponsors

 You can read more about Xavier’s Little Aussie Lap here: gccm.com.au/xaviers-little-aussie-lap-update

 

 

Published in print October-December 2023

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