21 Jun 2012

Search for missing Australian sailors in Tonga called off

7:20 pm on 21 June 2012

Rescuers have suspended the search for two Australian yachtsmen missing since their boat was wrecked off a Tongan island a week ago.

An extensive air, sea, and land-based search coordinated by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand wasn't able to find Ian Thompson from Adelaide and Erwin Claus from Victoria.

The pair, who are both in their 60s, have been missing since last Thursday night when their 15-metre yacht, Navillus, was wrecked off Late, west of Vava'u.

A team of nine searchers had scoured Late on Wednesday and Thursday in the hope of finding the men.

An on-water search and an aerial search of over 191 square nautical miles by an RNZAF P3 Orion was also carried out.

Last Thursday night the two men reported via a satellite phone call to a relative in Australia that they had run aground and the yacht was breaking up.

Air and sea searches on Friday found wreckage from the yacht, including an undeployed liferaft.

The yacht is understood to have been en route from the Caribbean to Bundaberg in Queensland.