14 Feb 2012

Search fails to find sailor missing from yacht

10:21 pm on 14 February 2012

Searchers have covered 900 square kilometre of sea in the Bay of Plenty in an unsuccessful hunt for a man missing off a deserted yacht.


The 12 metre single-masted yacht Honfleur was spotted by a member of the public about 11 nautical miles east of Mayor Island on Tuesday morning.

It was being sailed by Richard Rusbatch, 56, a charter boat operator from Russell in the Bay of Islands.

Western Bay of Plenty Police Area Commander, Inspector Karl Wright-St Clair, says the yacht was searched immediately, but no-one was aboard.

He says the motor was running and the anchor was dragging in the water.


Mr Wright-St Clair says it's believed the yacht left Tauranga for Paihia last Sunday.

He says police urgently want to hear from anyone who may have seen the yacht since then.

They are also trying to determine if a dinghy found by police on Monday night came from the yacht.

Maritime New Zealand's Ross Henderson says the crews of a helicopter and a plane searched a 900 sq km area between Motiti and Mayor Islands without success on Tuesday.

A sea search as well involved the Coastguard and a vessel that has been working on the Rena operation.

The search has been suspended for the night.