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British sailors missing at sea between South Africa and Australia

by Sail-World Cruising on 2 Sep 2011
Missing sailors depart Richards Bay in South Africa on Tiana SW
Grave fears are held for the safety of a British yachting couple who left Richards Bay in South Africa in March heading for Fremantle in Western Australia and have not been heard from since.

Alison Cooper sold her own yacht while in South Africa to join Barry Garnett on his yacht Tiana on a voyage which was to take them into the Roaring Forties to pick up the prevailing winds to carry them across the Indian ocean. They were due to arrive in Fremantle around the 1st May, meaning that they are now 120 days overdue.

Search and rescue authorities in both countries are daily attempting to locate the yacht without success.

‘Unfortunately, our enquiries with next of kin for both parties onboard and port checks in the region have produced no information regarding the yacht or her crew,’ said Craig Longmuir, Senior Search & Rescue Officer (Maritime) RCC Australia. ‘We continue our broadcast to shipping in the area to alert any transiting vessels. ‘I can confirm that Ile de Amsterdam, Ile de Saint Paul, Kerguelen and Crozet Islands have all been checked but there have been no reports of the Tiana,’ he told the Zululand Yacht Club(ZYC) on Tuesday night.

ZYC Commodore, Steve Martin expressed intense concern on behalf of members and friends of the popular couple, who spent the past three years in Richards Bay. ‘Rather than travel the traditional shipping route via Madagascar, to avoid piracy they chose to head due south close to the ‘Roaring Forties' (latitude 40 degrees) before making eastwards for Australia. ‘This means they are not in shipping lanes and are also in very cold conditions which are physically demanding.

‘Their food and water situation is a worry and with each passing day, hope diminishes, but there are positives.

‘Barry is a highly experienced trans-ocean sailor and a sailing instructor who would also have the ability to navigate using a sextant in the event of failure of electronic equipment.

‘Also, the yacht’s EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) has not activated, which would happen in the event of a disaster.’

Martin, who spoke with Alison’s mother in the UK this week, was unable to say at what stage the couple would officially be declared ‘lost at sea’, or who would make such a death announcement.

The family due to receive the yachties in Australia, Mary and Gordon Hemsley are also distraught at the lack of communication. They told South Africa's Zululand Observer they were in constant touch with the authorities and were praying for a miracle.

Anyone with information about the missing sailors should contact their local coastguard, or Sail-World at editor@sail-world.com

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