• The boat overturned in the Atlantic Ocean on Monday
  • A Spanish coast guard ship and helicopters reached the spot to rescue the man
  • He was airlifted to safety after the rescue, and was taken to a hospital

A 62-year-old French sailor managed to survive for 16 hours inside an air bubble in his boat after the vessel overturned in the Atlantic Ocean.

The 12-meter-long boat, which started its journey from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, came under distress near the Spanish coast Monday. The sailor, whose name wasn't revealed, sent out a signal at around 8.23 p.m. local time from 14 miles from the Sisargas Islands located off Spain's northwestern Galicia region, BBC reported.

Tracking data showed the boat set sail the previous morning, CNN reported.

The coastguard divers termed the difficult rescue operation as "verging on the impossible," according to BBC.

The rescue operations involved a ship carrying five divers and three helicopters that scoured through the area for the man. A driver was boosted onto the ship's hull to check for any signs of life. Realizing this, the sailor, who was inside, banged the door to catch the diver's attention.

However, the team was forced to halt the rescue efforts because it was beginning to get dark. Plus, the sea was too rough to attempt a rescue. So, to ensure the vessel didn't sink further as they waited until the morning, the rescue team attached two buoyancy balloons to it to keep it adrift.

The next day, two divers swam under the boat to release the sailor, who they found was wearing a neoprene survival suit and submerged in water up to his knees. The man then jumped into freezing water and swam under the boat toward the sea's surface.

"Of his own initiative, he got into the water and freedived out, helped by the divers who had to pull him through because it was difficult for him to get out in his suit," The Guardian quoted Vicente Cobelo, a member of the coast guard's special operations team, as saying.

Following the rescue, Spain's Maritime Safety and Rescue Society, in a tweet, said: "Each life saved is our biggest reward."

The man was airlifted to safety, and was taken to a hospital for checks. He was discharged soon after with no issues.

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