Five rescued from sinking yacht

AMY MAAS
Last updated 11:43 18/08/2012
Yacht Rescue
PHIL DOYLE/Fairfax NZ

ON DRY LAND:Senior constable and police coastal master Garry Larsen helps four of the rescued men off the navy rib which brought them in to Auckland.

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A hand-held radio proved "invaluable" for a group of five friends who were winched to safety from their sinking yacht in a dramatic sea rescue this morning.

The men, who are of Hong Kong and Taiwanese descent, were on their 11m wooden yacht, Stager, when it started sinking around 5.45am at Cape Colville.

The navy's HMNZS Canterbury and the Westpac helicopter were called to the scene.
 
Senior constable and police coastal master of Auckland Police maritime unit, Garry Larsen said the men had left Wairoa River around 4.30pm yesterday afternoon and were heading toward the Coromandel.

The man who was in charge of the yacht had a boat master's ticket, which means he is educated through the Coastguard, and had 15 years experience on the water. He said he knew the area very well.

The men had anchored the yacht around 10.30pm and around 4.30am a front with heavy gusts of wind came through.

"They anchored for the night and around 4.30am a front came through, heavy wind, and they decided that they wanted to move their vessel," said Larsen.

"So they lifted the anchor and started the engine and progressed off to try and get around some sheltered area and unfortunately hit a rock as they were going."

Larsen said the yacht had been motoring at a very slow speed for around 10 minutes when it hit the rock.

"They landed on the rock. They tried to free themselves but the vessel was probably sitting on the rock for about an hour until our services arrived."

The men then used the hand-held VHF radio to call a mayday and got a response straight away.

Braden McKee, the navy's lead combat systems specialist, said the HMNZ Canterbury was heading back to Auckland after a resupply trip to Raoul Island.

"They were very lucky we were in the area. The boat literally sank as we winched the last person off to safety," he said.

The naval seasprite winched two of the men from the sinking vessel onto the HMNZS Canterbury.

The other three men were rescued before the vessel completely vanished.

All five men underwent medical assessments aboard the HNMZ Canterbury and were given warm clothes and food.

None of the men are believed to be injured.

Larsen said the joint rescue effort between the police maritime unit, coastguard and the navy was "handled very well".

The men, who live in Howick and on the North Shore, would not speak to media this morning as they arrived in Auckland.

They have lived in the country for around 20 years.

"They couldn't convey their gratitude enough, they didn't want to put anyone in this sort of situation but they all had life jackets on and they're appreciative of the response," said Larsen.

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