Family convinced Nina afloat

MISSING: From left David Dyche IV, 17, Rosemary Dyche, 60, David Dyche III, 58, cruising on the Nina.
MISSING: From left David Dyche IV, 17, Rosemary Dyche, 60, David Dyche III, 58, cruising on the Nina.

A privately funded search for an American yacht that disappeared five months ago in the Tasman Sea is nearing the end without success.

A Piper Twin Comanche aircraft has this week been searching an area west of Norfolk Island where family are convinced the yacht Nina is trapped in "reverse circulating currents".

Rescue authorities in New Zealand, Australia and the US believe the 85-year-old yacht suffered a catastrophic failure and sank immediately without trace.

With seven people aboard, the Nina left Opua, in the Bay of Islands on May 29 bound for Newcastle, Australia. It was last heard from on June 4, when conditions in the Tasman were very rough.

On June 25 the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Wellington launched what turned into one of their biggest searches but, with nothing found, suspended it on July 4.

The private search is funded by families of the missing seven through a Facebook page.

As of last night, the private search had involved 240 hours of flying. The aircraft was out searching again today but the search is likely to end with that trip.

Among those in Norfolk Island helping the search is Robin Wright of Lafayette, Louisiana, along with husband Ricky, whose 18-year-old daughter Danielle is among the missing.

She posted on Facebook that while the weather over the Tasman had been perfect, there was no sign of the yacht.

"If we don't find Nina in this search, Ricky is seriously considering taking flying lessons from the search pilot who says it's the perfect opportunity because then Ricky can get his time in the air with the trainer and kill two birds with one stone - he will be able to go out and fly the additional areas he wants to search closer to Australian shores," Robin Wright wrote.

She added that she had been touched by the outpouring of support across the world. Family hopes have been kept going by 3.2 million grainy pictures of 500,000 square kilometres of the Tasman released to families by the New York Stock Exchange-listed DigitalGlobe.

The company, which has five spy satellites and works mostly for the US military and intelligence services, is prohibited by US law from release its highest definition pictures.

Not only have the pictures been grainy and difficult to read, but they have also been slow to make it to an on-line crowd sourcing site where 13,000 volunteers search for the Nina on the pictures.

The families believe an image captured on September 16 was of the Nina, but by the time any kind of search could be launched, it was 10 days old. The object seen in the picture has not been found again nor properly identified.