Safe but shocked: rescued sailors arrive on dry land

Three round-the-world sailors have described how 30 sharks attacked their inflatable boat, forcing them to leap in darkness on to a ladder on a massive vehicle carrier, that came to their rescue.

Russians Evgeny Kovalevsky and Stanislav Beryozkin, along with French national Vincent Thomas Etienne, arrived on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland on Thursday.

They were rescued by Dugong Ace, a vehicle carrier that picked them up about 800km southeast of Cairns early on Wednesday morning.

Expedition leader Mr Kovalevsky said he was still in shock after losing their nine-metre catamaran.

But the crew was now thinking about how they could continue their attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

"The expedition is an extreme expedition," Mr Kovalevsky told AAP.

"It is a challenge - we were challenged and we have to solve it

"We have a month-and-a-half to find a solution how to continue. 

"We have to leave Australia before end of October because of hurricane season.

"We have to find another boat."

The trio was rescued in darkness by Shanghai-bound cargo ship the Dugong Ace after issuing a distress call about 1.30am on Wednesday.

The men had left Vanuatu about August 28 on the way to Cairns during the Pacific leg of their voyage when their vessel began to sink following damage to both hulls from cookiecutter sharks.

First the left rear balloon was damaged in an attack on Monday before more cookiecutter sharks circled again late on Tuesday evening, this time biting through the right balloon.

Mr Kovalevsky said there were 20 to 30 sharks across the two attacks. 

The men were left with no option but to call for help as their catamaran, the Tion, began to sink.

"We have double material on the balloon," Mr Kovalevsky said.

"The shark cuts, they look like a half-moon.

"They like big fish and whales and bit at both sides of the hull. 

"They attacked the right balloon between five and six September and we couldn't move. 

"We started to sink into the water."

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority responded to the distress signal and directed the Dugong Ace to their location, while a Cairns-based Challenger rescue jet arrived at the scene, capturing images of the stricken vessel.

Mr Kovalevsky said his 50 years of sailing experience helped him keep calm.

"I'm always ready for an extreme situation," he said.

"Stanislav has 40 years, also ready.

"Vincent did not panic even though he is 27 and inexperienced. 

"We grabbed documents, money and action camera to Vincent to make video and film."

Mr Kovalevsky said he instructed the Frenchman to film their leap from the boat to a dangling ladder at the base of the Dugong Ace.

He credited the Filipino crew of the cargo ship with saving them and said the sailors treated them like family.

He hopes to share the tales of their inflatable journey across the world with schools in Australia during their short stay.

"People everywhere are curious - Australians are the same," he said.

The men will try to source a third boat for their journey after being rescued from their damaged inflatable trimaran off the coast of Chile in March.

In April, they set sail from Easter Island on the Tion, which had survived punctures by sharks near Tahiti in June. 

The Russians' three-year voyage is a project by the Russian Geographical Society and aims to re-create the first Russian round-the-world expeditions of the 19th century.

It began in St Petersburg in July 2021 with the two Russians travelling through the western seas of Europe, through the South Atlantic Ocean and into Pacific waters before the Frenchman recently joined them as a temporary crew member. 

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