4 Jan 2017

Irish yachtie stranded off Dunedin coast

12:48 pm on 4 January 2017

An Irish yachtsman on a solo round-the-world race is "heartbroken" at being stranded off the Dunedin coast with a broken mast.

Stranded sailor Enda O'Coineen

Stranded sailor Enda O'Coineen Photo: Facebook / Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland

Enda O'Coineen is representing Team Ireland in the Vendee Globe race, which involves sailing around the world without stopping and without assistance.

In an online race log from 2 January, Mr O'Coineen said the mast on his vessel Kilcullen Voyager broke in strong winds on New Year's Day, and he was stranded about 180 nautical miles south-east of Dunedin.

"It was a sudden 35-knot squall and a series of involuntary gybes - as the boat self-steering at a critical times went out of control - which caught us without a backstay runner and not enough support for the mast.

"This should not have happened. However I took the risk, it's my responsibility and I am heartbroken for all who have supported the challenge."

He said he was "still shaken and struggling to get back to New Zealand."

He bought the vessel two years ago, but was "in awe of the power of the boat, and nervous that I could never sail her".

"And now, exactly two years later, having mastered the boat, a trans-Atlantic Race podium, qualified, up and down to the Canaries, around Ireland and sailed half way around the planet at least something has 'happened'," he said.

"To wrap, now I am a bundle of emotion, trying to figure out what it all means - heartbroken and devastated."

However Mr O'Coineen was pragmatic about his misadventure, calling it a "First World problem".

He said he was out of the race, and needed to decide whether to leave his boat in New Zealand, or ship it back to Europe.

Maritime New Zealand has been in touch with the yachtsman, who said he did not require rescue at this point, and was hoping to reach Dunedin in the coming days.

A spokesman said Maritime New Zealand would put a radio call out for any commercial vessels in the area to tow Mr O'Coineen into the harbour.

A Port Otago spokesman said Mr O'Coineen was low on fuel and strong south-west winds could hamper his trip to safety if he attempted to reach Dunedin by himself.

Dunedin sailor Stewart Mclauchlan said he had been contacted by Mr O'Coineen's race team, who had asked him to assist the yachtsman to harbour if needed.

He said the stranded yachtie had enough food to last 50 days and was not in any immediate danger.

Team Ireland spokesman Neil O'Hagan told RNZ Mr O'Coineen was in "reasonably good shape" but it would be a few days before the team had any indication of when he could reach Dunedin harbour.