Please select your home edition
Edition
Naiad/Oracle Supplier

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.

Mackay BoatsHelm Events 660x82PredictWind.com

Related Articles

Great Barrier Reef managers and industry prepare for summer
Marine park managers, scientists and experts recently met for the annual pre-summer workshop Marine park managers, scientists and experts recently met for the annual pre-summer workshop to assess climate-related risks to the Great Barrier Reef over the coming months. Current predictions by the Bureau of Meteorology and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are for a summer of average sea temperatures across the Great Barrier Reef.
Posted on 7 Dec
Hyde Sails Distributor in Denmark places 1000th order!
Congratulations to Kjeld Larsen, Hyde Sails distributor in Denmark, on placing his 1000th order with the loft! Congratulations to Kjeld Larsen, Hyde Sails distributor in Denmark, on placing his 1000th order with the loft! Kjeld has been working with Hyde Sails as a distributor since placing his first order in March 2008.
Posted on 7 Dec
Two Oceans, One Rock in a Proa.
A Proa is a multihull sailboat common in the South Pacific and Indonesia. They have two different sized, parallel hulls. A Proa is a multihull sailboat common in the South Pacific and Indonesia. They have two different sized, but parallel hulls. Jzero, the Proa pictured here is a shunting boat and does not tack. Ryan Finn is launching the modified 36-foot Proa, so as to accomplish the fastest-ever, nonstop solo-sail, around the Old Clipper-ship Cape Horn Route from New York to San Francisco.
Posted on 2 Dec
Predictwind release improved racing and cruising routing function
PredictWind has released a major upgrade to its Routing function, taking a much more graphic and interactive approach PredictWind has released a major upgrade to its Routing function, taking a much more graphic and interactive approach to what has been a black art of weather routing, used to chose the fastest route for racers or most comfortable route for cruisers.
Posted on 28 Nov
Only room for one at the top
The results of RMIT's (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) independent testing are in. The results of RMIT's (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) independent testing are in. Zhik® is the market leader in waterproof durability with a new standard that replicates the real world sailing environment and conditions. It is an astounding four times more so than the previous leader.
Posted on 28 Nov
Parlier reigns supreme in Hydrofoil Worlds
The south westerly breeze kicks over the land mass over north facing beach, making for flat water despite strong wind. Whatever the shortcomings of the Fremantle Doctor on the first day of competition, were made up for in spades on day two, when the wind kicked in early at 15 knots and quickly built to 18 with gusts as high as 26. The Rockingham course is perfectly suited to such conditions. The south westerly breeze kicks over the land mass over the north facing beach, making for flat water despite strong wind.
Posted on 27 Nov
Fourth Blog from on board Perie Banou II
Oh no - not the coffee cup Oh no - not the coffee cup - Jon keeps us all entertained as he approaches Reunion Island. The B&G chartplotter tells me since leaving the pleasant mid Western Australian town of Carnarvon (by world standards, an isolated town), that I have sailed some 2559 NM and have 751nm to go to Le Port Reunion Island. French. Reunion is a Suburb (department) of Paris. Population 844,000.
Posted on 23 Nov
Third Blog from onboard Perie Banou II
Wind over the last week has been quiet and mild - Trade Winds from South East and South South East. It is 0830am here. 1030 in Western Australia. Windy. Rather Windy. Wind over the last week has been quiet and mild - Trade Winds from South East and South South East. Barometer 1018 to 1020 whatever they are. Last night I tapped the barometer and it sorta went oops. 1015hPa. Blimey.
Posted on 18 Nov
Second Blog from onboard Perie Banou II
This is day 13 since leaving the mid Western Australian town of Carnarvon. Remote region. Beautiful town. This is day 13 since leaving the mid Western Australian town of Carnarvon. Remote region. Beautiful town. Kept cooler by the strong south winds, which make the trees bend and grow to the north. Carnarvon is nice, especially the months of September, October, November, and December. The wind is strong. Often near gale strength, with squalls and blue skies.
Posted on 15 Nov
NoveNove Maui Aloha Classic - Day 14 - A dramatic final day
After a week of light winds trades finally returned on last day of NoveNove Maui Aloha Classic to provide pulsating end After a week of light winds the trades finally returned on the last day of the 2016 NoveNove Maui Aloha Classic to provide a pulsating end to the event, which saw Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / Ezzy / MFC) defend his single elimination crown, while Sarah-Quita Offringa fought her way back through the double elimination with be crowned the women’s Aloha Classic Champion.
Posted on 14 Nov