The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Swiss sailor loses fingers in storm and ends up in Australia

Updated at 03 Feb 2024 1:31 am

Swiss sailor Ralph Bender lost his little finger on a solo trip in a storm and treated himself. Unable to sail, he drifted from South Africa towards Australia. He eventually ended up on the west coast of Australia.

The accident occurred south of the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, Bender told the Australian broadcaster ABC in a program broadcast online on Saturday (Eastern time). In a storm, his little finger got caught in a rope of the spinnaker. "I tried to save the spinnaker, but lost it and with it part of my finger," said the Swiss.

Bender almost fainted. He had a local anesthetic on board. He had poured one or two bottles of it onto the wound. He operated on himself. "I cut the rest off with scissors," he said. On land, he would have screamed for help. But if nobody hears you, there's no point, he said. "I asked myself: what am I doing here? I could be at home, have a cat on my lap and drink a coffee."

Further problems are added

The bleeding stopped after around four days. In the meantime, the boat had drifted away. Because he could not use his hand, he was also unable to set sail. Then further problems arose: The mast had almost fallen down, the autopilot had failed and the battery was flat. But Bender was able to prevent an infection in his hand. "After about two weeks, I climbed back up the mast," he said.

According to the ABC, Bender came ashore in Bunbury, around 200 kilometers south of Perth, on 24 January. He did what sailors would do: He went to the local sailing club. There, the Swiss man met a surgeon. "He told me I had done a good job," Bender told the radio and television station.

Bender had actually set sail near Barcelona to get to Easter Island in the Pacific. He is now waiting in Bunbury until his sailing boat is repaired.


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