HomeOutdoorsNewsSailor Survives Terrifying Experience of Being Stranded in Shark-Infested Waters for 24 Hours After Boat Sinks

Sailor Survives Terrifying Experience of Being Stranded in Shark-Infested Waters for 24 Hours After Boat Sinks

by Taylor Cunningham
Stephen Frink/Getty

A sailor spent 24 harrowing hours floating in shark-infested with only a small raft to keep him safe after his vessel sunk for no apparent reason.

Finish skipper Tapio Lehtinen was competing in a solo around-the-world sailing event called the Golden Globe Race when the terrifying incident took place. On the night of Nov. 18, more than two months after he set sail, a loud banging noise woke him. And it didn’t take long for him to realize that his boat was filling with water.

“The water was already knee deep with more rushing in from the engine compartment at the stern of the boat,” race spokesperson Sebastien Delasnerie told Newsweek. “The vessel got flooded to deck level within five minutes and Tapio immediately realized that he had to abandon ship, put on his survival suit, take his comms grab bag and enter the life raft.”

Within 20 minutes, the ship dubbed Asteria sank 450 miles off the coast of South Africa. Because Lentinen had fled so quickly, he didn’t have time to grab food, water, or medicine. But he had complete faith that his competitors would find him quickly, and he would survive the ordeal.

A Great White Shark Killed a Swimmer in the Area Only Two Months Earlier

The sailor sent a distress signal from a beacon, and the race crisis management team immediately began searching for other racers who could reach Lentinen. Luckily, two competitors, Kirsten Neuschäfer and Abhilash Tomy, were relatively close at the time, and they rerouted to find their downed friend.

“There are dangers involved in this race,” Neuschäfer’s manager, Jérôme Drnovšek, said. “And they are balanced by the fact they would all do this for each other. No questions asked.”

But while Lentinen waited, he drifted aimlessly around unseen predators. He was stranded off Port Elizabeth, which hosts an array of shark species, including great whites. Sharks don’t typically hunt humans, but it isn’t uncommon for them to mistake small flotation devices for prey.

If Lentienen ended up in the water, he would have been at an even greater risk. In September, a 39-year-old mother lost her life when a great white attacked near Port Elizabeth.

He said he felt safe in his raft, however. And just over a day later, Neuschäfer found him bobbing in six to nine-foot waves. She was able to scoop him out of the water and then pour glasses of whiskey in celebration. In the end, he didn’t see a single shark.

Lentienen and the race officials can’t figure out why the ship sunk, however. The Asteria was completely rebuilt four years ago, and it passed a pre-race inspection. Furthermore, there was no bad weather in the area.

The sailor was disappointed not to complete the event. But he said that the accident hasn’t scared him away from the water. He’s already making plans to try the Golden Globe Race once again in 2023.