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Mystery surrounds rescued sailor

OCT. 3 — Alone, starving and unable to speak — these are the conditions Russian Valdim Smolyak was in last Friday when the Irish Naval Service found him in a stolen 12-foot boat, according to The Independent, an Irish online news source.

“He had no radio. He had no navigation equipment,” said Lt. Commander Terry Ward of the Irish Naval Service in a news report on “He is either an extremely accomplished sailor or an extremely lucky man.”

Smolyak, 22, was found drifting about 130 miles off Ireland’s southwest coast after an extensive rescue operation sparked by a report from a large British-registered fishing vessel. The crew saw the small boat, named Le Katell, by chance last Thursday morning, according to The Galloway Gazette and offered to help Smolyak, but he waved them away.

However the Irish Naval ship LE Aisling was on patrol and was dispatched to the area, arriving at 9 p.m. By Friday morning they were joined by British Royal Air Force patrol aircraft, according to the news report.

Smolyak’s boat was confirmed by authorities as being the same that was stolen from the French port of Roscoff early in September. Communication with Smolyak was difficult because the Russian was unable to speak, however, by 4 p.m. Friday, Smolyak had entered the inflatable boat that took him to the L.E. Aisling.

Reports state that Smolyak was 600 miles from where the boat was stolen, and was extremely hungry and thirsty. Communication was made with the help of special language cards, and authorities estimate he spent up to three weeks without food or water, weathering severe gales that have occurred recently in the area.

Smolyak is currently at the Haulbowline naval base in Cork, Ireland, where he is undergoing questioning.

— Elizabeth Ellis