Rescue drama on Edinburgh clipper

Surgeon Stephen Wigmore recommended Alan was taken to shore
Surgeon Stephen Wigmore recommended Alan was taken to shore
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A CREW member from the Capital’s entry in the Clipper Round the World yacht race has been rescued from the yacht by Japanese coastguards after breaking his leg.

Kidney transplant patient Alan Stewart, 49, was on the yacht as one of its Transplant Relay Team, a group of transplant recipients, surgeons and nurses taking part in the race to raise awareness of the difference an organ transplant can make to a seriously ill person.

He suffered a hairline fracture below the knee when he fell over below deck just after getting up to take over watch on the boat. Edinburgh Royal Infirmary surgeon Stephen Wigmore, who carried out Mr Stewart’s transplant and organised the transplant team, is also on board the boat and recommended that he be transferred to hospital for treatment.

Mr Stewart had signed up for the race after being told about it by Mr Wigmore the day after his transplant.

Edinburgh Inspiring Capital left the Chinese port of Qingdao on Sunday for the longest race of the competition, sailing 5000 miles across the Pacific to San Francisco.

But Mr Stewart’s journey ended in Japan after the crew diverted 20 miles to Kagoshima, where a Japanese coastguard vessel met him and took him to an ambulance to go to hospital for treatment.

The teacher from Peebles has had his leg put in plaster, and is now awaiting the go-ahead to fly home after being discharged from hospital.

Race director Joff Bailey said: “He fell over below decks, and probably got caught unawares by a wave.

“The skippers have medical training and can ask for medical advice off the boat via international systems set up but having Stephen there gives the skipper a little bit more confidence that he was making the right judgement calls.”

He said Mr Stewart was in good spirits despite his injury: “Alan’s obviously a little bit gutted that his trip has been cut short. He’s in plaster now – I imagine once he’s signed off to fly he’ll be on the plane back to Scotland.”

While the accident was a huge disappointment for Mr Stewart, he will be thanking his lucky stars it didn’t happen any later in the race, after the crew have embarked on the main stretch of their Pacific crossing.

Mr Bailey said: “If that sort of thing happened in a few days’ time we wouldn’t have much choice other than to leave him on the boat and strap him down. Although he’s in a lot of pain, it’s not life-threatening and we wouldn’t want to activate emergency services in a rescue that could put their lives at risk. So it was fortunate that it was close to harbour.”