Cruise ship rescues French sailor Alain Delord off Tasmania

Orion cruise liner The cruise liner Orion was returning from a trip to Antarctica when it responded to the distress call

A French sailor who had spent three days adrift in a life raft in the Southern Ocean off the coast of Tasmania in Australia has been rescued.

A cruise ship picked up Alain Delord on Sunday, said a spokesman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

The yachtsman was attempting a solo round-the-world voyage when he ran into trouble on Friday, 500 nautical miles off Australia's island state.

The mast on his yacht broke in rough weather forcing him to abandon it.

The BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney says Australian authorities were able to drop food, water and a survival suit to the 63-year-old, but his location was too remote for a helicopter rescue.

Mr Delord was uninjured and said to be in reasonable spirits, he adds.

The cruise ship Orion was on its way back from the Antarctic when it answered the distress call, making a 50-hour diversion to pick him up.

The experienced French sailor's personal website shows that he was following the route taken by the Vendee Globe race, but was not a registered competitor.

The race, founded by French sailor Philippe Jeantot in 1989, is held every four years.

Competitors race from France and then around the world in the seas around the Antarctic.

It is seen as a test of human endurance.

In 1997 Frenchman Thierry Dubois and Briton Tony Bullimore were both rescued by the Australian navy after running into trouble in the Southern Ocean during the race.

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