An RNZAF P3 Orion has returned to New Zealand this evening after completing a seventh day of searching, without sighting a missing American schooner or its liferaft.
The 21m (70ft) Nina was sailing from Opua in the Bay of Islands to Newcastle, Australia, with seven people on board, but has not been heard from since 4 June.
The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) tasked a P3 Orion to conduct an aerial search today of an area south of Norfolk Island measuring 2,100 square nautical miles.
Skipper David Dyche, 58; his wife, Rosemary, 60; and their son David, 17 on board Nina, missing presumed sunk,during their dream circumnavigation .. .
RCCNZ mission coordinator Dave Wilson said today’s search has not yielded any fresh information and forecast poor weather is likely to prevent any further aerial searching for the next two days. However, he says RCCNZ will continue to evaluate the available data and consider all possible options for the next steps to take.
Mr Wilson said RCCNZ is very concerned for the family and friends who are anxiously awaiting news of the missing vessel and its crew.
Extensive ocean and shoreline searches have now covered an area totalling more than four times the size of New Zealand. The P3 Orion was initially tasked to make radar sweeps of broad expanses of the Tasman Sea as far as the Australian coast. Shoreline searches were also conducted from Northland south to New Plymouth. Since Sunday, visual searches have been focused on locating a liferaft, targeting areas identified from detailed modeling of drift patterns from the yacht’s last known position on 4 June. For these searches, the P3 Orion has trained observers on board and travels at low altitude in a tight flight pattern.
RCCNZ is liaising with Rescue Coordination Centre Australia (RCC Australia), which is assisting with broadcasts on coastal radio. New Zealand Maritime Radio is continuing to conduct broadcasts in New Zealand’s search and rescue region.
In response to reader requests we have included Predictwind.com wind forecasts for the Tasman Sea at 12 hour intervals at 1200hrs through to the last five day prognosis on Sunday at 0600hrs.
There are seven people on board the schooner Nina, six Americans (three men aged 17, 28 and 58, and three women aged 18, 60 and 73) and a British man aged 35.
To date, the RCCNZ has coordinated seven searches, with an RNZAF P3K2 Orion aircraft covering a combined area of more than 615,000 square nautical miles. Two aerial shoreline searches have also been conducted (on 28 and 29 June) but no sign has been found of the vessel or its crew.
The schooner Nina, built in 1928, left Opua on 29 May and was last heard from on 4 June, when the vessel was about 370 nautical miles west-north-west of Cape Reinga.
The vessel is equipped with satellite phone, a spot tracking device which allows regular tracking signals to be sent manually, and an emergency beacon. The emergency beacon has not been activated.
After concerns were raised by family and friends, the RCCNZ instigated a communications search on 14 June, using a range of communications methods to broadcast alerts to the vessel and others in the area. RCCNZ determined that the vessel should have arrived at its intended destination by 25 June, and aerial searches were instigated when it had not arrived by that date.
An aerial search south of Norfolk, covering approximately 2,100 square nautical miles. The P3 Orion was airborne at 6am and searched until 4.30pm before returning to New Zealand.
An aerial search of approximately 3,780 square nautical miles north of North Cape. The P3 Orion arrived on scene at about 9.30am and continued searching until 6pm. Conditions in the search area were good, with excellent visibility.
An extensive aerial search of 4,830 square nautical miles north-east of Northland. The P3 Orion arrived at the search area at around 8am and conducted an aerial and radar search until approximately 4pm.
An extended shoreline search for the crew was undertaken for a second day without success. RCCNZ tasked a helicopter to perform a coastal search from Port Waikato to New Plymouth. The Tauranga-based Phillips Search and Rescue helicopter was on scene at around 11.45am.
A twin-engine fixed-wing aircraft was tasked to search the shoreline and coast starting at Tauroa Point, along Ninety Mile Beach, north of Northland, and out to and around Three Kings Islands.
The Hamilton-based Phillips Search and Rescue Trust fixed-wing Piper Chieftain aeroplane with the pilot and three observers on board arrived at Tauroa Point from Hamilton at about 10.45am, and searched throughout the day until 5pm.
A search was completed of 324,000 square nautical miles between northern New Zealand and the Australian coast, based on the vessel suffering damage but continuing to make progress towards Australia.
A search area of 140,000 square nautical miles was covered, to the immediate north-north-east of New Zealand, based on the vessel being disabled and drifting.
Records show that conditions at the last known position for the vessel, on 4 June, were very rough, with winds of 80kmh gusting to 110kmh and swells of up to 8m.
by Rosemary Neilson, Martime NZ
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11:05 AM Tue 2 Jul 2013GMT
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