Author(s): Les Hill
The longest-known survival on the Tasman Sea in a life raft. After competing in the Solo Tasman Yacht Challenge 1974, Christchurch man Tony Allan was sailing back to New Zealand from Mooloolaba when his boat, Rebel II, capsized two days into the journey, leaving him adrift in his life raft for 20 days. Alone in the Tasman, as told to Les Hill, is an inspiring story of survival as Tony battled through nightmares, hearing voices, loneliness, and absolute vulnerability. Tony's is the longest-known survival on the Tasman Sea in a life raft.
On 27 December 1974, Tony Allan, a solo sailor on board his trimaran Rebel 11, departed Queensland on a return journey to New Zealand. At 5.45am, two days out from the Australian coast, after clearing the danger of the busy shipping lanes, Tony was sleeping peacefully in his berth, resting and anticipating an enjoyable, relaxing sail in the peace and solitude of the open sea. About fifteen minutes later chaos erupted. In a matter of seconds Tony’s yacht was inexplicably and dramatically uplifted and turned end over end onto its cabin top. In one awful instant Tony was awakened and thrown out of his berth and onto the roof of his cabin with debris raining down upon him. The yacht’s interior was instantly inundated
with a huge wall of water adding to the terror.
Utterly and overwhelmingly bewildered, Tony’s immediate thoughts were of escape – from the flood and the confines of the cabin and escape to the water’s surface atop the overturned hulls. Half-crawling and half-swimming he managed to clamber out onto the main hull where he sat,
overcome with fear, just looking around him in disbelief.
The very uneasy reality of his situation gradually dawned upon him and as difficult as it was to think clearly, he began to ponder what he had to do to survive.
At that moment he had no idea that he would have to survive for twenty lonely, challenging days in a tiny life raft. His immediate challenge was overcoming immense, overwhelming stress and fear as he sat immobilised, cold and wet huddled into a tight ball on the floor of his life raft. But this was just the beginning of a terrifying sequence of challenges. He had the immediate worry about infection to several wounds suffered during the capsize. There were frequent, persistent nightmares to endure during the long, depressing hours of darkness; a growing fear of a dwindling
food supply; a violent storm that almost swamped him; a carelessly punctured raft to repair, and, almost worst of all, the presence of a huge shark which hovered perilously close and stalked Tony for a disturbing length of time.
This is an amazing and gripping tale of one man’s enormous courage and will to survive, a tale that shows the inner strength possessed by a person thrust into very difficult circumstances.
Les Hill, a retired school teacher, lives in Hokitika, on the South Island’s wild West Coast. He moved there thirteen years ago, attracted by the opportunities offered to someone with a desire
for a life in the outdoors.
Les has had a passion for trout fishing for more than sixty years and during the last four decades has become a well-respected angling author and photographer. He has been a regular contributor
to Fish and Game Magazine since its inception in 1993 (and to other magazines, in both New Zealand and abroad) and in the interim has
also either authored or co-authored seven books on trout fishing.
The writing of Alone in the Tasman is his first foray into writing in another genre, a challenge he has enjoyed immensely.