Please select your home edition
Edition
BIA 2016 Sydney Boat Show 728x90

Couple rescued, boat lost to storm on notorious Tonga-Auckland route

by Nancy Knudsen on 11 Nov 2012
Windigo’s crew - Steve Jones and Tania Davies - rescued, but boat, which was Steve’s home, was lost to the sea. .. .
Welsh-Australian cruising sailor Stephen Jones broke down while describing the loss of his boat Windigo, which was also his home, to a storm on the notorious route between Tonga and New Zealand. He and his fellow crewmate, New Zealander Tanya Davies, are recovering as they steam towards New Zealand's navy vessel HMNZS Otago on the Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship, Chengtu, which rescued them.

This will take them the rest of the way back to New Zealand while the Chengtu resumes its route to its destination, Hong Kong. How do they feel?

'We are a bit battered and bruised,' according to Tanya, speaking by telephone from the Chengtu, 'but that is nothing compared to being able to live the rest of their lives. We are looking forward to terra firma.'

The storm was unforecast when they left Vava'u in Tonga less than 48 hours previous to its arrival. Soon they found themselves in 10m seas and with 50kts of wind. Both sailors were knocked unconscious when their boat was rolled through 360 degrees and righted itself. They woke to find themselves covered in blood, and Stephen had sustained a back injury. The boat was very damaged, and water was entering the boat through broken hatches.

After setting off their EPIRB they waited for rescue inside the cabin of the 38ft boat, which had also lost engine power.

Tanya described the situation. They were 'like a couple of little balls being tossed around a room,' and and 'the banging, the crashing, the whipping, the crunching, the sloshing. Just the sounds vibrated through every part of your body.'

She added that she was 'totally in shock and completely grateful' to all those involved in the rescue effort. Stephen was very emotional and broke down when describing the loss of his boat to his relieved parents in Wales.


The Chengtu had responded to the emergency call and began steaming towards the damaged yacht. After approximately 15 hours, at about 3.30am they reached the yacht, as did another yacht, Adventure Bound. They both stood by because the weather was too bad to attempt a rescue. After the wind abated to around 20kts, in the morning at about 9.00am, the crew of the Chengtu were able to use ropes and helicopter swings they had on board to fashion some gear which they threw to the two sailors and were able to drag them safely up the side of the ship. Once onboard the Chengtu their medical condition was assessed.

Merchant ships, particularly since the formation of AMVER, have recently taken a large role in the rescues of cruising sailors. Tribute have been paid to the efforts of the Chengtu, and also to the yacht Adventure Bound, which remained on-site overnight, and the Royal New Zealand Air Force, which provided a P3-Orion that made three trips to the stricken yacht providing the only communications link. A French naval plane also made two trips from Noumea to the scene since the emergency beacon was activated on Nov 7 in the afternoon.

It will still be more than 30 hours before the couple reach New Zealand.


The stretch of water between the South Pacific and New Zealand is known as an uncertain and often dangerous stretch of water. In 1994, four sailors lost their lives and at least four cruising boats were destroyed when what has become notoriously known as the 'Queen's Birthday Storm', between November 20-30, hit a regatta fleet unexpectedly. The conditions were similar to the recent incident as to wind strength and wave height.

Burk - Marine OutletSouthern Spars - 100Pantaenius - Fixed Value

Related Articles

America's Cup - Arbitration Panel Hearing over Kiwi Qualifier for July
ACEA CEO, Russell Coutts has confirmed that the Arbitration Panel will hold its first Hearing in July. In a yet to be published interview in Sail-World, America’s Cup Events Authority CEO, Russell Coutts has confirmed that the Arbitration Panel will hold its first Hearing in July. This is the first official indication that the three person Arbitration Panel had even been formed, however Sail-World’s sources indicated that it had been empanelled since last January, possibly earlier.
Posted on 27 May
Rio 2016 - The Qualification Games - Part 2
Yachting NZ's refusal to nominate in three classes won in the first round of 2016 Olympic Qualification is unprecedented Yachting New Zealand's refusal to nominate in three classes won in the first round of 2016 Olympic Qualification is without precedent. Subject to Appeal, the Kiwis have signaled that they will reject 30% of the positions gained in the ISAF World Sailing Championships in Santander in 2014.
Posted on 22 May
Gladwell's Line - World Sailing changes tack after IOC windshift
Over the past year, we've given the International Sailing Federation (now re-badged as World Sailing) a bit of stick Over the past year, we've given the International Sailing Federation (now re-badged as World Sailing) a bit of stick. Every blow well earned over issues such as the pollution at Rio, the Israeli exclusion abomination plus a few more. But now World Sailing is getting it right.
Posted on 21 May
Rio 2016 - The Qualification Games - Part 1
Antipodean selection shenanigans aside, the Qualification system for the Rio Olympics appears to be achieving its goals Antipodean selection shenanigans aside, the Qualification system for the Rio Olympics appears to be achieving goals set in the Olympic Commission report of 2010. Around 64 countries are expected to be represented in Rio de Janeiro in August. That is a slight increase on Qingdao and Weymouth, but more importantly a full regional qualification system is now in place
Posted on 19 May
Taming the beast-a conversation with Stuart Meurer of Parker Hannifin
While AC72 cats were fast, they difficult to control, so Oracle partnered with Parker Hannifin to innovate a better way. If you watched videos of the AC72s racing in the 34th America’s Cup (2013), you’re familiar with the mind-boggling speeds that are possible when wingsail-powered catamarans switch from displacement sailing to foiling mode. While foiling is fast, there’s no disguising the platform’s inherent instability. Now, Oracle Team USA has teamed up with Parker Hannifin to innovate a better way.
Posted on 18 May
From foiling Moths to Olympic starting lines-a Q&A with Bora Gulari
Bora Gulari’s is representing the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics in the Nacra 17 class, along with teammate Louisa Chafee. Bora Gulari (USA) has made a strong name for himself within high-performance sailing circles, with wins at the 2009 and 2013 Moth Worlds. In between, he broke the 30-knort barrier and was the 2009 US SAILING Rolex Yachtsman of the Year. His latest challenge is representing the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics in the Nacra 17 class as skipper, along with his teammate Louisa Chafee.
Posted on 12 May
Concern for Zika at Rio Olympics is now deadly serious
Alphabet soup is one description that has thus far not been used for either Guanabara Bay, Alphabet soup is one description that has thus far not been used for either Guanabara Bay, or the Rio Olympics. Many others have, and they were apt, but things have changed. So here now we have a situation where one man, Associate Professor Amir Attaran, who does have a more than decent string of letters after his name, is bringing nearly as many facts to bear as references at the article's end
Posted on 12 May
The importance of being Alive
Since buying the stunningly pretty Reichel-Pugh canting keel 66-footer, and re-naming her Alive, Since buying the stunningly pretty Reichel-Pugh canting keel 66-footer, and re-naming her Alive, the team have lined up for a lot of things, won plenty and nabbed a record, as well. She’s presently in a yard in the Philippines having a minor refit in readiness for the Australian season. It will commence with the upcoming Brisbane to Keppel and then head sharply into this year’s Hobart.
Posted on 10 May
Hoisted on their own petard
Now it was not that long ago that we wondered if there were some genuinely Shakespearean elements beginning to appear... Now it was not that long ago that we wondered if there were some genuinely Shakespearean elements beginning to appear in World Sailing’s premier event, the Sailing World Cup. In that time, a flurry of material has espoused all manner of joyous points including travel grants and prize money. That’s terrific and the hope is that somehow this will overcome the tyranny of distance for Melbourne
Posted on 9 May
Zhik - The brand born of a notion, not its history
here is probably every reason that ocean rhymes with notion. Zhik’s tagline is officially marketed as Made For Water There is probably every reason that ocean rhymes with notion. Zhik’s tagline has been officially marketed as Made For Water, and this is precisely what the company has done for the last eight years before the succinct and apt strapline came from out of R&D and into mainstream visibility.
Posted on 8 May