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Search and rescue operation called off after yacht found in Whangarei

by Maritime New Zealand 18 Feb 2021 16:06 PST 19 February 2021
Flying Fifteen National Championships - Bream Bay - March 2020 ©

The yacht, Tribe, which broadcast a Mayday call yesterday evening was found on Thursday afternoon in Bream Bay about 4 nautical miles (7km) south of Whangarei.

That is about 80 nautical miles (150km) north of where it made its Mayday call.

A Maritime NZ staff member expects to meet Tribe’s skipper tomorrow to discuss what happened and what lessons can be learned from the incident.

Rescue Coordination Centre NZ Senior Search and Rescue Officer, Chris Henshaw, said irrespective of the circumstances of this incident, anyone on the water who believes their life is in danger should not hesitate to make a Mayday call or activate a distress beacon – delay can be fatal.

“If you make a Mayday call and the situation changes for the better, then make the radio call to cancel the Mayday,” Mr Henshaw said. “You will be thanked for the cancellation – no one will be critical or angry.

“If you activated a beacon and are no longer in danger, then make sure you leave the beacon on until you are contacted by rescuers. If you turn it off, we have the position you were at but no way of knowing if you have moved or what has happened.

“Our advice to everyone going boating is take two water-proof ways to call for help.

“A VHF radio and distress beacon are the best.

“Close to shore, a cellphone in a waterproof bag can be one way to call for help.”

Rescue Coordination Centre NZ (RCCNZ) thanked all the organisations and people who searched for the missing yacht, Tribe, Thursday and on Wednesday evening.

RCCNZ Operations Manager, Neville Blakemore, said search and rescue – on sea, land or air – is always a partnership and simply could not happen without the expertise, willingness and great teamwork of all involved.

This operation conducted over Wednesday 17 February and Thursday 18 February, in response to a Mayday call, was coordinated by RCCNZ and involved:

The New Zealand Defence Force, committed the HMNZS Te Kaha and Royal New Zealand Air Force C130 Hercules to the search, had a Seasprite helicopter on standby, and made a P3 Orion returning from supporting a search and rescue mission in the Pacific available if it was needed.

Coastguard Units, Whangamata, Whitianga, Tairua/Pauanui and Waiheke’s vessels searched on Wednesday while weather permitted them to operate, and the Auckland Air Patrol aircraft joined the search yesterday.

Sunair Aviation, which is a Bay of Plenty-based commercial operator that contributed one of its aircraft to the search with an experienced search and rescue team on board.

Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (Westpac Auckland) and Philips Search and Rescue Trust (TECT Rescue, Tauranga) both provided helicopters for searching Wednesday. Police provided critical and important support, receiving calls from the public, undertaking enquiries, following up on leads and helping contact families of the other yachts in the search area. Most importantly, Police were contacted yesterday afternoon by occupants of a yacht to enquire if there was a search underway to locate their vessel. It was the vessel that had issued the Mayday call. Police forwarded the information to RCCNZ and the search was stood down.

“We would also like to thank the families and emergency contacts of the other yachts in the search area,” Mr Blakemore said. “They gave Police and RCCNZ the names of vessels and confirmed they were safe. That is important information as it means we can eliminate those vessels from the search and be more specific about what and who we are looking for and where they might be.

Maritime NZ recommends the following simple things that may help keep you safe on boats: Everyone on board wears their lifejacket Take two waterproof ways to call for help – a distress beacon (PLB or EPIRB) and VHF radio are best, and close to shore, a cellphone in a waterproof bag can be one way to call for help Check the marine weather forecast Avoid alcohol Be a responsible skipper.

For more information about boating safety visit

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