Aerial search underway for missing yacht

16 March 2010, 12:15pm

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) has mounted an aerial search for a yacht missing off the East Coast with one person on board.

RCCNZ launched the search and rescue operation after the 11 metre yacht was reported overdue on a voyage from Tauranga to Gisborne.

The vessel left Tauranga on Friday morning and its skipper last made contact with his partner by cellphone at about 1.30pm that day. The police were alerted last night after he failed to arrive at work as expected on Monday.

A twin-engined PA31 equipped with radar and with three observers on board left Hamilton about 10.30am this morning, to search the coastline and ocean off the East Cape between Tauranga and Gisborne.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue mission coordinator Keith Allen said they have not determined the extent of the search area, because it is not known how far offshore the vessel was likely to have sailed.

Mr Allen said the yacht is well-equipped, with an emergency locator beacon and flares. However, the skipper has not responded to marine radio broadcasts despite having a VHF radio on board, and it is thought he may not have it turned on.

Mr Allen said while today’s forecast for the area is for light westerly winds with 4 metre swells, there are concerns the vessel was affected by the severe southerly storm which moved up the east coast on Friday evening.

He said the naval vessel Manawanui was diverted in the early hours of this morning to investigate reports of a flashing light in the Bay of Plenty, but it turned out to be a longline.

These details will be updated as more infomation comes to hand.

Please note: RCCNZ is the national coordinator for all major (Category II) search and rescue incidents within New Zealand’s search and rescue region – an area covering more than 30 million square kilometres. It responds to significant incidents on land, air and sea, and all distress alerts from emergency beacons. RCCNZ is part of Maritime New Zealand and is Government-funded to provide a 24 hour, seven day a week service.

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