Two yachties were winched off their
yacht by the Wellington based Westpac Rescue Helicopter around 7:00
The 30 foot yacht Husvale, on a delivery trip from Tauranga to
Lyttelton, set off their emergency locator beacon around 2:00 in
the morning while being battered by huge seas and after being
knocked down on its side three times.
The Rescue Coordination Centre contacted the helicopter crew
just before 6 am and notified them that there was an emergency
locator beacon activated about 40 miles south of Cape Palliser.
After fitting an extra fuel tank, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter,
set off for the general area with two pilots, a crewman and a
Wellington Free Ambulance paramedic.
"We picked up the signal almost as soon as we took off" says
Dave Greenberg, Westpac Rescue Helicopter crewman.
"We were in a very strong Northerly and it only took about 30
minutes to get to the area. We never spotted them in the big seas
but as we went past our radio gear indicated they were behind us,
and as we turned the guys onboard set of a flare".
The 30 foot yacht was being buffeted by seas around four metres
high, with the occasional rouge wave coming through as high as six
metres. Winds were between 40 and 50 knots (75 and 90 kph).
"Using hand signals we quickly established that there were only
two of them onboard, they were physically OK and they had no radio
communications" says Greenberg. "We were initially a bit concerned
with how the rescue would go without being able to brief them, but
they quickly showed us they were extremely competent and knew what
they were doing".
In a situation like this the helicopter comes in relatively
close to the yacht so that a 'hi-line' (heave in line) can be
thrown on deck. Once the hi-line is on deck the pilot can move into
a position where he can use the yacht as a reference. The
helicopters rescue winch is then used to lower a rescue harness,
and the people on board can pull the harness in using the
"We got the first man off without any difficulty and then
lowered the rescue harness a second time. We also attached a note
asking the remaining sailor to ensure that the emergency locator
beacon was switched off" continued Greenberg.
Once the emergency beacon was switched off the second man was
rescued and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter returned to Wellington
with the two men.
"Apparently they were knocked down 3 times, in big seas, and
lost all radio communications" says Greenberg .
"They were being pushed away from shore, another storm was
forecast to come through in 24 hours and they knew they would have
to abandon the yacht".
The two men, a 33 year old from Tauranga and a 28 year old from
Napier are going to make their way back home today. We understand
that efforts are underway to salvage the yacht [ANN thanks Dave
Greenberg for the amazing on-scene pix...].