Video/Gallery: Newmarket’s Andrew Taylor says he wasn’t going to die on his mum’s birthday after being thrown overboard in the Pacific Ocean for 90 minutes
PUBLISHED: 17:06 04 April 2014 | UPDATED: 07:50 07 April 2014
A west Suffolk sailor who fought for his life for more than 90 minutes amid the freezing waves of the Pacific Ocean has said he refused to die on his mum’s birthday.
Andrew Taylor, who grew up in Newmarket, was thrown from his boat in the depths of the north Pacific earlier this week while competing in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
The 46-year-old was left battling the elements for around an hour and 40 minutes while his fellow crew aboard the Derry-Londonderry-Doire scoured the seas for him - a task skipper Sean McCarter said was worse than looking for a needle in a haystack.
Mr Taylor was eventually found and pulled to safety to the relief of the crew and his parents Tony and Eileen, who still live in Newmarket.
Mrs Taylor was celebrating her 71st birthday on Monday when the accident happened, and Andrew admitted that this formed part of his inspiration to keep fighting.
Having lost sight of the boat during a fierce hailstorm, Andrew said that he started to relax once the sun came out.
He added: “It was at that time I had a few quiet moments and started thinking ‘God, maybe the boat is a long way away, maybe they’re not going to find me now’.
“I remember at that point thinking it’s my mum’s birthday, and I hadn’t yet got round to sending her a message.
“I remember thinking no, not on my mum’s birthday - this is not a good time, I’m not going to die, I’m not going to let that happen. I realised I was in a bad place.”
Andrew then removed his spray hood and allowed himself to get cold again in his efforts to stay alive.
Dad Tony used to own Taylor’s Pet Shop in Newmarket town centre, which is now Milpets, and said his son’s admission “had really got to us emotionally back home here”.
He added: “One of the biggest things that helped me is Andrew’s own calmness and determination to make it.
“I’m tremendously proud of him. I’m proud of the whole set-up. I had confidence the whole thing would come off - the other people on the crew did a marvellous job.”
The Clipper Race was founded to allow anyone, regardless of previous sailing experience, the chance to experience ocean racing, with all participants undergoing a rigorous training programme.
Tony said that Andrew had only ever set foot “on a paddle boat” before starting his training for the race in 2012, but had thrown himself into training and bought extra equipment that probably helped save his life.
Andrew hit the boat’s rudder during his fall into the sea and is believed to have suffered a broken leg.
The accident happened around halfway between China and San Francisco, and he will have an x-ray when the boat arrives in America towards the end of next week.
Andrew’s bravery in the face of adversity continued a long family tradition his father Tony said yesterday, with Tony’s father Jack a decorated soldier during the Second World War.
Jack was awarded the George Medal and the British Empire Medal during his attachment to 99 Squadron.
Both awards were for rescuing the crew of blazing aircraft which crashed at Newmarket Racecourse while it was being used as an RAF base during the war, with a monument to Jack’s heroic actions now a permanent fixture at the racecourse.
“I think a bit of his courage has got into Andrew,” added Tony.
Andrew is now a high-flying catering manager living in London having learned his trade at Cambridge Catering College and started life at a Newmarket fish and chip shop.
He has overseen catering at Newmarket Racecourse, Silverstone and the London 2012 Olympic Games, and turned down the same job at Rio 2016 to have a year off and take part in the race.