A stranded yachtsman saved in a dramatic rescue that included two passenger jets knew he was in trouble, but had no idea just how deep.
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Glenn Ey on Tuesday set off his emergency beacon while stranded in rough seas off the Australian coast, with a broken mast and no fuel, but he didn't think he was too far offshore.
When a rescue aircraft told him his position, he tracked it on a map to find he was actually 270 nautical miles - or 500 kilometres - east of Sydney.
"I plotted my position and rather than being 60 or 70 miles, I was 270 miles from the coast.
"It was extraordinary, I couldn't believe it. I wasn't afraid until I knew where I was."
The 44-year-old Australian man returned to shore early this morning with his rescuers from NSW Police, to be met by his emotional parents.
Ey set off from Pittwater, north of Sydney, on October 4 to sail to Eden, on the NSW south coast, but hit a storm on the way.
His 11-metre yacht Streaker flipped and his mast snapped.
"One second you're here and the next second you've been rammed into the roof and the next second you've been dropped back onto the floor," he told reporters this morning.
"And the noise is unbelievable, like a mast doesn't crack without any noises, [it was] like an explosion."
Ey tried to continue his journey using the motor, but ran out of fuel and set off his beacon.
"I was stuck in this current which explains why I couldn't get back to the coast.
"I now realise I was 270 miles out from the coast."
DRAMATIC SEARCH AND RESCUE
NSW Police boat Nemesis reached Ey early yesterday morning, after a dramatic search and rescue operation, involving two commercial planes and a merchant vessel.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority asked two international commercial flights to divert to his location according to the GPS on his beacon.
Air Canada Boeing 777, which was on its way to Sydney from Vancouver on Tuesday, flew over the area and passengers were encouraged to look out the window to spot him.
The captain saw the yacht and confirmed his location, before an Air New Zealand A320, flying from Auckland, later checked on his position.
AMSA search and rescue aircraft, Dornier, arrived at noon and reported the yacht had been de-masted and was low on fuel.
A merchant ship, ANL Benalla, pulled up alongside the yacht in the afternoon to protect it from strong winds until Nemesis arrived and he was helped on board.
Wild weather stopped police from being able to tow his yacht back, so warnings have been issued to all ships in the area.
Detective Inspector Anthony Brazzill from the Marine Area Command said nine police battled rough conditions to rescue Ey.
He said it was a good example of how emergency beacons can save lives and he encouraged recreational sailors to buy one.
"It is an adventure he will certainly remember.
"Sea and weather conditions were challenging and [he] had been drifting further and further out to sea. He can consider himself very lucky to be alive.
"It's been a long and tiring journey and I am sure he is looking forward to having a proper meal, a hot shower and seeing his friends and family."
- Sydney Morning Herald