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Westpac Rescue Helicopter Rescues Two Yachties

Wellington Westpac Rescue Helicopter Rescues Two Yachties

Two yachties were winched off their yacht by the Wellington based Westpac Rescue Helicopter around 7:00 this morning.

The 30 foot yacht Husvale, on a delivery trip from Tauranga to Lyttelton, set off their emergency locator beacon around 2:00 this 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 hi-line.

"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.

© Scoop Media

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