Polish yachtie rescued by cargo ship

16 April 2017, 1:30pm

The Polish round-the-world yachtsman whose yacht Regina R suffered steering failure on Thursday 2,700 kms east of New Zealand has been rescued by cargo ship the Key Opus and the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) in an operation overseen by Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ).

The man had been reluctant to leave his yacht when the Key Opus arrived on the scene late on Saturday afternoon.

RCCNZ contacted NZDF to organise for a Air Force P3K2 Orion to again fly from New Zealand to the yacht, this time with a Polish speaker onboard to convince him to be rescued. Following a four hour flight, the Orion arrived on scene just after 9 am this morning. After unsuccessful attempts to communicate with the sailor, the Orion crew delivered a radio to the yacht and communications were established.

“The man spoke little English - a hurdle we had to overcome for this operation. Once the Polish speaker - who was known to the man - made radio contact with him, he was able to convince him of the gravity of the situation and he agreed to leave his boat,” says Dave Wilson, RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator.

The crew of the Key Opus dropped a net down the ship’s side to allow the man to clamber up, while the Orion continued to circle overhead, monitoring the rescue operation and providing updates to RCCNZ in New Zealand.

“The captain and crew of the Key Opus have done an excellent job of safely managing a rescue in an extremely remote location. We also thank the NZDF for the key role they played in this rescue - the distance from land was a major problem that was solved with their assistance,” says Dave.

“We’d also like to acknowledge the help of the Polish Embassy in this rescue.”

“We are pleased with the positive outcome of this search and rescue mission,” says Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the NZDF's Air Component Commander. “The Orion crew has done an outstanding job over this long weekend to bring the operation to a successful conclusion.”

Weather conditions in the area have been rough throughout the operation with 25 knot winds and a three metre swell.

Rescue Coordination Centre NZ is broadcasting a warning for other vessels that the man’s yacht is drifting in the area.

RCCNZ has been managing the search since Thursday when a EPIRB beacon alert was received at 10 am. The Key Opus - the closest vessel able to undertake a rescue - was diverted to the Regina R’s location.

“The fact it took two full days of sailing for the Key Opus to reach the man’s position underscores the remoteness of this rescue,” says Dave. “The man was in good spirits and understandably very happy to be rescued. He is now being taken to Chile - the cargo ship’s next port of call.”

The man is estimated to arrive in Chile on 4 May. RCCNZ has been in touch with our South American equivalent to inform them of the man’s impending arrival.

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