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Wild weather causes sailing chaos in Tasmanian holiday break

by Lee Mylchreest on 9 Apr 2012
Three rescued as wild weather causes chaos in Tasmanian waters SW
Tasmania is one of those places where it's magic to sail - in summer. But when the Easter holiday break this year coincided with rough conditions lashing the far-south Australian island, it was a recipe for disaster.

Police have said since that it was lucky no more lives were lost, given the rough conditions that lashed the state.


The wild weather first claimed the life of a veteran yachtsman off the Tasman Peninsula on Saturday, when he drowned after falling from his boat near the Tasman Peninsula.

Early investigations suggest the 66-year-old man was trying to move his 16 metre steel yacht to safer waters when the accident happened. His body was found by the police helicopter about 50 metres from shore.

Three sailors had to be rescued from their battered yacht off the north-east coast (pictured).

The men, who were sailing from Hobart to Sydney, let off an EPIRB about midday after the rigging and sails of their 10m yacht Sandshoe were badly damaged by rough seas.

The Westpac Police Rescue helicopter flew to the stricken yacht, which was about 85 nautical miles east of Flinders Island and the chopper crew lowered an emergency radio to the vessel.

Helicopter paramedic Richard Bugg said the sailors used the radio to report one of the crew had suffered a head injury, but no one was badly hurt.

The chopper stayed hovering over the yacht until the Van Diemen arrived from Flinders Island. The sailors had deployed a drogue and managed to lash their mainsail, but the rigging was compromised and the headsail in shreds.

Conditions were so rough the police rescue crew had to launch a smaller boat attached to the Van Diemen to approach the stricken yacht. The men were taken to St Helens for medical treatment.

It was the second time in two days the police helicopter had been called out to a yacht in distress.

Coast Radio Hobart manager Barry McCann said six other boats ran aground or got into trouble off the East Coast over the weekend.

'We were fairly busy,' Mr McCann said.

Detective Senior Sergeant Craig Joel, who is investigating the weekend drowning off Slopen Island, said it was lucky more people were not killed, considering the number of people out on the water for Easter and the wild weather.

'We were quite fortunate that the result was no other lives were lost,' Det-Sgt Joel said.

However, he said, the gale-like conditions were 'normal' for Tasmania.

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