Yet another solo sailor has been rescued by a commercial ship, this time a car carrier, after his yacht was rolled and holed during a storm in the South Pacific, some 1250nm north east of Auckland. Canadian sailor Art Munneke, a member of the SaltSpring Island Yacht Club, had survived for five days after the incident, augmenting his electric bilge pump with hand pumping. When the bilge pump failed he let off his EPIRB.
Munneke, a very experienced sailor voyaging on his 11m yacht L'Antillaise, had been sailing extensively in the South Pacific over the last couple of years, before now heading for home to Canada.
The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) received a signal from a US-coded EPIRB distress beacon just after 10.30am yesterday, and an RNZAF P3 Orion was sent to the scene.
The car carrier, 238m Fidelio, was en route to Auckland, when it agreed to divert for 200nm to attempt a rescue of the sailor, some 600nm south of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.
On arrival at the scene, the Orion contacted the skipper by VHF and relayed vital information from the stricken yacht to the rescue ship and RCCNZ before diverting to Rarotonga to refuel.
The Fidelio reached the scene shortly shortly before 11pm and manoeuvred in 25 knot winds and swells of 2-3m to allow the sailor to climb aboard via the pilots ladder.
RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator Dave Wilson told the media, 'There was no question the skipper was in serious danger.
'The crew of the Orion did a great job finding the yacht, and it was an amazing effort from the master and crew of the Fidelio to rescue the skipper at night, in high winds and rough seas.
'The sailor had received superficial facial injuries when his vessel rolled and these have been treated aboard the Fidelio.'
The Fidelio is continuing on to Auckland and is likely to arrive on Thursday. Let's hope they get the hero's welcome they deserve.