Yachts out of distress

6 November 2007, 5:20pm

Two yachts at the centre of search and rescue operations early today are no longer in distress and will be towed into port.

Rescuers successfully coordinated searches for the two stricken yachts – one of which had been taking on water off the coast of Hokianga, and another which had activated its 406 distress beacon south east of Norfolk Island.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) received its first distress call via VHF radio at 1:15am when two crew members advised their 26ft yacht, Sander, was taking on water 52km offshore from Ninety Mile Beach. The crew traced the leak to the engine water pump. They then stopped the yacht’s engine, which quickly reduced the water level.

The Sander’s crew are in radio and cellphone contact with RCCNZ, who are continuing to monitor the situation, but the vessel is no longer in distress.  Two nearby fishing vessels are now towing the yacht to Mangonui overnight.

The second incident involved a search for the 60ft yacht, Lightspeed, about 300km south east of Norfolk Island after its 406 distress beacon was detected by satellite at 5:15am.

RCCNZ tasked a Royal New Zealand Air Force Hercules to assist and immediately broadcast mayday calls to any ships in the area. A Panamanian car carrier located the yacht about 7.40am and the Hercules was stood down.

The Master of the car carrier was able to communicate with Lightspeed, which has three people are on board.  There are no injuries, but the yacht’s rudder and engine are broken.

A Japanese container vessel also offered assistance, but was later stood down after it was determined that the yacht was no longer in distress and that its crew would seek a tow into port. RCCNZ is continuing to monitor the yacht’s situation.

The yacht’s owner has arranged for a commercial vessel from Auckland to tow it back to New Zealand, a trip which is likely to take several days.

RCCNZ Incident Controller, Ramon Davis, said the fact the Lightspeed had been carrying a 406 Megahertz rescue beacon had helped accelerate the rescue response.

RCCNZ will provide further information has it comes to hand.

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