An Irishman's round the world solo sailing race has come to an abrupt end after his mast collapsed while 180 nautical miles south of New Zealand.

Enda O'Coineen set out from France alongside New Zealander Conrad Coleman on November 6 in the Vendee Globe sailing race, a solo, non-stop race around the planet.

But on New Year's Day disaster struck when a 35 knot squall caught O'Coineen off guard and the mast on his IMOCA 60, Kilcullen Voyager, came tumbling down. He was in 15th position at the time.

After five days of drifting with no engine O'Coineen is being blown close enough to shore so a local vessel can assist with the recovery of him and his boat.

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"The mast collapsed over the the side and I'm lucky to have survived actually. I have to laugh because if I don't I will cry," he said.

O'Coineen is the first Irish person to compete in what is considered the 'Everest of the Seas, minus the Sherpas'.

Although he's out of the official race he could continue on - if his boat can be repaired - and be the first Irishman to sail solo around the world.

"The principle of the race is challenging the environment and the elements and I don't really want to call the rescue services, but I do need help. It's not easy, I'm just waiting for the right wind, and it's just a matter of patience.

A map shows where the boat of Irishman Enda O'Coineen currently lies after his mast collapsed axing him from the Vendee Globe sailing race, a solo, non-stop race around the world. Image / Supplied
A map shows where the boat of Irishman Enda O'Coineen currently lies after his mast collapsed axing him from the Vendee Globe sailing race, a solo, non-stop race around the world. Image / Supplied

"Hopefully I can get up to New Zealand and sort out the boat, and hopefully perhaps continue around the world - or abort - I'm just not sure at this point."

He does now hold the title for the furthest distance sailed alone by an Irishman. Earlier adventures have seen O'Coineen sail alone across the Atlantic in inflatable dinghies, competing in mini transats, and setting record times in sailing for circumnavigating Ireland.

One of the highs of O'Coineen's race saw him cross the equator shortly after he learnt that his first granddaughter was born.

A fishing vessel is set to depart Dunedin in the coming 24 hours to tow O'Coineen to a safe port.

For a man who lives on the other side of the world O'Coineen has strong ties to New Zealand. His boat was built in Wellington by Hake Marine in 2007, and he is also President of The Irish Pubs Global Federation.

O'Coineen is expected to hit the shore sometime on Friday.

• For more accurate updates see the team's Facebook Page 'Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland' and the Vendee Globe Race Tracker.