French yacht crew safely ashore

18 February 2008

Ten sailors whose yacht overturned 80 nautical miles (145km) east of Dunedin shortly after 1pm today have all been rescued and have now landed safely at Taieri Airfield.

Three rescue helicopters winched the crew of the French trimaran Groupama III to safety about 3.30pm, before flying to Dunedin. All are uninjured and were all dressed in survival gear when they were picked up from the yacht’s hull.

The crew will be checked by ambulance staff and be processed through Customs before being released.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) facilitated the rescue response after its equivalent in France called at 1.20pm (NZDT) to report it had picked up a signal from the vessel’s 406Mhz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).

RCCNZ Mission Coordinator Keith Allen said the incident highlighted the value of people carrying a 406Mhz EPIRB, which had greatly assisted in the rescue.

“Because the 406Mhz variety EPIRB is able to be detected by satellite within minutes, it gives rescuers an accurate position very quickly, which greatly speeds up any emergency response. The fact that the beacon was also registered with up to date ownership details, meant that rescue agencies knew straight away who was in trouble and were able to make contact with them.”

The yacht was taking part in the Jules Verne Round the World Yacht Race when it overturned.

Weather in the area consists of 2m swells and south-westerly winds of 30 knots.

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