17 Apr 2017

No charges for rescued yachtie

8:55 am on 17 April 2017

The cost of rescuing a Polish yachtsman from his stricken yacht off the Chatham Islands will be borne by the organisations involved in the search, and he will not be charged, the Rescue Co-ordination Centre says.

The NZ Defence Force located the yacht, Regina R, on Thursday afternoon.

The NZ Defence Force located the yacht, Regina R, on Thursday afternoon. Photo: Supplied / NZDF

The New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre said an Air Force Orion located the yacht on Saturday, but the 64-year-old Polish man was reluctant to leave his vessel, the Regina R, which suffered steering failure on Thursday, prompting a mayday call.

A cargo ship, the Key Opus, arrived late Saturday afternoon, but search and rescue mission coordinator, Dave Wilson, said the yachtsman stayed put until the Orion was sent out again yesterday morning.

"The man spoke little English - a hurdle we had to overcome for this operation, said Dave Wilson, RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator.

After unsuccessful attempts to communicate with the sailor, the Orion crew delivered a radio to the yacht and communications were established.

"They had on board this time an interpreter that was provided to us by the Polish Embassy and he was able explain the severity of the situation and convince him it was a good time to abandon onto the containership," said Mr Wilson.

The crew of the Key Opus dropped a net down the ship's side to allow the man to clamber up, while the Orion continued to circle overhead, monitoring the rescue operation and providing updates to RCCNZ in New Zealand.

The Rescue Coordination Centre said the cost of the mission was not calculated and came out of the operating budgets of the organisations involved in the search.

It said the Regina R had been left to drift and other vessels in the area had been warned to avoid it.

The sailor would be dropped off in Chile, the next port the Key Opus was to visit.

Mr Wilson praised the crew of the freighter for their part in the rescue.

"The captain and crew of the Key Opus have done an excellent job of safely managing a rescue in an extremely remote location. We also thank the NZDF for the key role they played in this rescue - the distance from land was a major problem that was solved with their assistance," he said.

"We'd also like to acknowledge the help of the Polish Embassy in this rescue."

"We are pleased with the positive outcome of this search and rescue mission," said Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the NZDF's Air Component Commander. "The Orion crew has done an outstanding job over this long weekend to bring the operation to a successful conclusion."

Weather conditions in the area have been rough throughout the operation with 25 knot winds and a 3 metre swell.