Sailing on a nice day, when nothing breaks and the wind is kind can give the inexperienced a false sense of security. It has been conjectured by police that this was the case for the three young German nationals who have not been seen since they went sailing off the coast of New Zealand on April 16.
Munetra before she left
Still missing are Lea Tietz and Veronika Steudler, both aged 19 on a gap-year holiday, and the boat’s owner Andre Kinzler, 33. The trio set off on the 7.5-metre yacht Munetra from Bluff, on the southern coast of the South Island.
Munetra - Andre in jovial mood
An intensive aerial search involving two helicopters and an air force P-3 Orion failed to find any trace of the missing vessel and has now been called off, police said.
'Obviously police continue to have very real concerns for the safety of the occupants on the yacht and are working to piece together information about the three occupants on board,' inspector Lane Todd said.
He said that Tietz and Steudler, from Gorlitz in eastern Germany, had both been in New Zealand since September last year and were due to return home next month.
Kinzler, 33, also a German national, had been working on a South island farm for the past four years.
Munetra Veronika Steudler
He is believed to have met the teenagers last month and invited them to sail on his yacht.
Police are looking at Kinzler’s lack of sailing experience as a possible reason for the disappearance.
'We know that he purchased the boat within the past 12 months but the information we’ve gathered to date suggests his previous sailing experience may have been limited,' he said.
The young skipper was warned by friends about ferocious southern waters in rough weather before he boarded his yacht with the two girls.
The adventurous young German sailor had dreams of sailing the world before he departed with his two inexperienced crew, bound for Preservation Inlet, a journey that should have taken between 10 and 12 hours. They were planning a six-day voyage to the Fiordland inlet.
Emergency services searched for the trio for three days, including using an air force Orion, but found nothing.
Kinzler spent all his free time sailing, according to his boss and Central Southland farmer Jim Cooper.
Munetra - Lea Tiez
The news of Kinzler's disappearance had been devastating for Cooper and his 11 employees, who were all fond of Kinzler and his outgoing nature. 'It's been hard; we are a pretty tight team,' he told the New Zealand Herald.
Cooper spoke highly of the man who he said was an 'awesome guy and amazing worker' but, when he didn't turn up for work, he knew something was wrong.
Kinzler, who grew up behind the wall in Germany, was frequently going on adventures, but he returned, on time for work every time. 'He's always done these trips and turned up. He's never, ever let us down.'
But on April 22 he failed to turn up for early morning milking at the shed.
Cooper first called the coastguard to see if the boat had returned to Bluff but it had disappeared along with the three Germans. It still hasn't been found.
Kinzler had a liferaft with him, which was almost bigger than the boat, Cooper said, as well as a kayak tied to the side.
He had sailed to Stewart Island before and done several trips around the Southland coast but he was still learning to sail, he said.
'He had to learn in some of the roughest waters in the world.'
Cooper did not think Kinzler would have ignored the advice of Bluff marine radio operator Meri Leask, who said earlier this week that Kinzler was 'not a communicator'.
Instead, he thought it may have been a lack of understanding of New Zealand sailing systems and having to check in so often.
'I think he couldn't understand what that was about,' Cooper said.
'We said to him before he left if the weather wasn't right, don't force it. I think he just underestimated the way the sea works; he was lacking local knowledge of the sea.'
Cooper said he hoped there was a possibility they could be found, Kinzler's house was still full of his possessions, like the day he left it.
But Cooper knew that if something had gone wrong, Kinzler would have done anything to save the two teens first. 'He was a survivor . . . he would have put his life on the line to save those two girls.'