Kiwi interpreters sent to help French yachtie

By Rebecca Quilliam of APNZ

Two New Zealand French and Mandarin speakers are being flown to Australia to help in a rescue attempt of a French yachtie who has abandoned his stricken boat.

The solo yachtsman, on an around-the-world trip got into trouble more than 800km off Tasmania's coast yesterday.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSAR) spokeswoman Jo Meehan said the man had been at sea for several months before suffering damage to his mast and hull.

"The other challenge we have is that the sailor doesn't speak particularly good English, so we haven't been able to get a lot of information about his current condition."

A cruise ship, the Orion, responded to a call for help from AMSAR, but it was about 50 hours away from the vessel.

A rescue plane flew over the area last night, by which time the yachtie had abandoned his boat and was in a liferaft, Ms Meehan said.

The plane was able to drop equipment to the man before having to return to Tasmania.

AMSAR were now attempting to contact Chinese fishing vessels, which were closer to the man, but had been unable to contact them because of language barriers.

"So as a result we've got some interpreters (from New Zealand) to come into Hobart and...once they've had a chat with the sailor and made sure he's ok, they will then fly around the area and try to use the translators to raise communications with those other vessels," Ms Meehan said.

The interpreters were flown from here because there was a plane available, she said.

"New Zealand is often closer to Tasmania than some other Australian cities."

The translators were due to head out to the search area tonight, Ms Meehan said.

- APNZ

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