5 Jun 2012

Crippled yacht safely anchored at Norfolk Island

9:20 pm on 5 June 2012

The skipper of the damaged yacht Beau Geste says he has never come so close to a catastrophe at sea.

The 24-metre yacht was competing in the Auckland to Noumea yacht race when it called for help on Monday night, saying its hull and deck were damaged.

New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Centre (RCCNZ) says the skipper contacted it at 7pm and it arranged for fishing boat Advance 2 to accompany the yacht. A Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion was on stand-by to assist if needed.

RCCNZ spokesperson Sophie Hazlehurst says the vessel made good progress and travelled more than 80 nautical miles overnight on Monday.

By midday on Tuesday the Beau Geste was anchored off the Norfolk Island capital, Kingston, where its damage is being assessed. The 18-member crew, which includes New Zealanders and Australians, were ashore safe and well.

Skipper Gavin Brady told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Tuesday the trouble started about 100 nautical miles off the island.

A big bang alerted the crew to a crack running along the deck and down one side of the yacht, which then effectively broke in half.

Mr Brady says several times he thought the 18-member crew would have to abandon ship and they had a tense night nursing the boat to anchor.

Norfolk Island Minister for Community Services Tim Sheridan says the community played an important role in getting the yacht to safety.

Mr Sheridan says two local fishermen set sail at midnight to help Beau Geste and many people were at the wharf waiting to help the crew.