'Mercy dash' to save solo sailor

A distressed Canadian sailor has been rescued in dramatic conditions off the coast of New Zealand.

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) said the lone sailor's single-masted yacht ran into trouble after it was battered by a storm five days ago.

"The skipper had been hand-bailing since the storm, but when the bilge pump failed he could no longer keep up with the water. At that stage he activated the EPIRB [Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon]," mission coordinator Dave Wilson from the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) said.

The signal from his yacht L'Antillaise was picked up just after 10.30am yesterday.

A Royal New Zealand Airforce P3 Orion was sent out to the yacht location, about 2300km north-east of Auckland and 1100km south of Rarotonga.

At the same time, the car-carrier vessel Fidelio was diverted on a "mercy dash" to the distressed yacht, MNZ said.

The Orion arrived on scene about 4.30pm and crew found the 11 metre yacht, with one man from British Columbia on board, in danger of sinking due to damage from the storm, MNZ said.

The plane's crew contacted the skipper by radio, and passed on information from the stricken yacht to the Fidelio.

It then went on to Rarotonga to refuel.

The Fidelio reached the yacht just before 11pm, and manoeuvred in 45 km/h winds and swells up to 3m to allow the sailor to climb aboard via the pilot's ladder, MNZ said.

Mr Wilson said the sailor had been in "serious danger".

"The crew of the Orion did a great job finding the yacht, and it was an amazing effort from the master and crew of the Fidelio to rescue the skipper at night, in high winds and rough seas. The sailor received superficial facial injuries when his vessel rolled and these have been treated aboard the Fidelio."

The Fidelio is continuing to Auckland, and is likely to arrive on Thursday.

 

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