3 Aug 2010

Yachtsmen rescued off Niue happy to be on dry land

3:17 pm on 3 August 2010

Two yachtsmen are happy to be safe and on dry land after their catamaran capsized more than 200 kilometres west of Niue at the weekend.

American Kelly Right and New Zealander Glen Scott McConkey were sailing to Niue to loan their yacht to the Fisheries Department, which had planned to use it for whale surveys.

Mr McConkey says they were monitoring the weather when the winds quickly picked up, and capsized the vessel before they could adjust their sails.

He says waiting in the water overnight was the most difficult part of the experience.

"I was able to get out of the water [ by climbing onto the upturned catamaran], and sort of wait there in the dark with no lights, it was pretty frightening because I knew Kelly was on his own out in a dinghy, although at times I could swim through the hull and look through an inspection port and we could signal each other that we were both OK. But it was a pretty hair-raising time, thinking, we don't know how long we're going to be here."

The men were spotted by a New Zealand Air Force Orion about seven hours after they set off their emergency locator beacon, and were picked up by a freighter Forum Pacific at first light the next morning.

Mr McConkey says they were both lucky to escape without injury.