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A solo round-the-world yachtsman who saved his arm by operating on himself using e-mailed instructions in mid-ocean said it had been the worst experience of his life.

"I couldn't stop the bleeding. At this point I was pretty tired. I hadn't eaten for a long time so I was losing my power and my blood, and I felt that I was losing my life," Viktor Yazykov said aboard his yacht in Cape Town harbour.

"I have been a few times in my life in pretty dangerous situations, but this time I think it was the worst," said the 50-year-old former Russian special forces soldier.

Yazykov, taking part in the Around Alone yacht race, was still nearly 950 miles short of Cape Town -- the first staging point in the event -- on November 10 when the abscess on his right elbow threatened to turn gangrenous.

In desperation, he e-mailed race doctor Daniel Carlin in Boston who sent him detailed instructions on what to do -- from sterilizing the cabin and the necessary surgical implements, to how to make the incision and close it.

With his small emergency generator out of action and solar panels the only source of power and light, Yazykov clamped a lamp to his forehead, crouched below deck aboard his Winds of Change yacht and sliced into his elbow with a scalpel.

He made a one inch incision and inserted a drain to remove the pus, but blood spurted all over the cabin and the mirror he was using to see what he was doing.

"I couldn't understand what was going wrong," he said. "I was covered in blood. I thought that I am going to die."

Yazykov said he tried applying a tourniquet and holding his arm above his head, but nothing worked and he started to lose sensation in the limb.

He e-mailed the doctor, who told him to release the tourniquet and explained that the aspirin he had been taking to control the pain had thinned his blood and aggravated the bleeding.

But he also reassured Yazykov the bleeding was not life-threatening and would eventually stop.

In a panic, Yazykov downed half a bottle of red wine in the belief it would help replenish his red blood cells. But he passed out due to a combination of the wine, loss of blood and fatigue, leaving Carlin waiting anxiously for news for several hours.

When Yazykov awakened, he found the bleeding had stopped, although he still had no feeling in his damaged arm.

After his arrival in Cape Town several days later, Yazykov was treated aboard a Russian trawler that happened to be in port, and his arm is slowly recovering.

Yazykov, who managed to come fifth out of nine racers in his yacht's class into Cape Town, is resting and preparing his boat for the next leg of the journey to Auckland, New Zealand, which starts Saturday.

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