NZ woman adrift in stricken yacht

MICHAEL DALY
Last updated 17:08 08/11/2012

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A diverted freighter is expected to reach a New Zealand woman and British man waiting to be rescued from a damaged yacht sometime after 1am.

The 43-year-old Auckland woman and 52-year-old man are understood to have received mild to moderate head injuries after the 11.6-metre Windigo rolled in rough conditions about 700km southwest of Tonga, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) said.

The man also injured his back, but none of the injuries were believed to be serious.

The two people on the yacht had secured themselves in the stern section, search and rescue mission coordinator Keith Allen said.

“It will be extremely uncomfortable and the people aboard are tired, but the yacht is still afloat so the correct approach is to remain onboard.”

An emergency beacon signal  raised the alarm about 6.30pm yesterday. The yacht, which left Tonga about two days ago, was 1260km northeast of New Zealand in 75kmh winds.

Sea conditions were moderating from the 10-metre seas reported earlier but remained rough.

An air force Orion, which flew to the yacht overnight then returned to New Zealand, had since returned to the Windigo and would stay in position above the yacht until 7pm, RCCNZ said.

The freighter Chengtu had been diverted to the Windigo, and was likely to arrive in the area sometime after 1am, around the same time as another yacht, Adventure Bound.

No rescue would be attempted at night, and it was hoped to have the Orion back in position at daybreak tomorrow, RCCNZ said.

Offshore navy patrol vessel Otago had been asked to leave exercises in the Hauraki Gulf and head toward the Windigo. It would take about 35 hours to reach the yacht's location.

The Orion earlier established that a second beacon activated around 5am 230km southwest of Tonga was from the Tongan fishing boat Lesila which had lost power and wanted a tow to Tonga.

The boat, with three people on board, was on a sea anchor and not in immediate distress.

Tongan police had been informed and would make contact with the owner to organise the tow.

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