Missing yacht: Shoreline search unsuccessful

Rosemary and David Dyche in November, 2012
Rosemary and David Dyche in November, 2012

A shoreline search today for the crew of the historic American schooner Nina, missing en route from the Bay of Islands to Newcastle, Australia, has been unsuccessful.

An extensive aerial shoreline search was undertaken along the country's northern west coast, an area identified by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) based on drift modelling from the last known position of the yacht earlier this month.

The seven-strong crew of the 21-metre vessel were last heard from on June 4.

"We tasked a twin-engine fixed-wing aircraft to search the shoreline and coast starting at Tauroa Point, along Ninety Mile Beach, north of Northland, and out to and around Three Kings Islands, but unfortunately there was no sign of the vessel or crew,'' mission controller Neville Blakemore said.

The Piper Chieftain, from the Hamilton-based Phillips Search and Rescue Trust, with the pilot and three observers on board left Hamilton about 10am and searched throughout the day for the vessel.

Mr Blakemore said a debrief would be held overnight, before a decision on the next stage of the search operation.

The 84-year-old wooden vessel was owned by 58-year-old American David Dyche.

He was travelling with his 60-year-old wife, Rosemary, their 17-year-old son David, a 35-year-old British man and well-known maritime technology expert Evi Nemeth, 73.

An 18-year-old American woman and a 28-year-old American man were also on board.

The RCCNZ has coordinated two extensive sea-based searches based on different scenarios, covering a combined area of 500,000 square nautical miles.

The schooner, built in 1928, left Opua in the Bay of Islands on May 29 and was last heard from about 370 nautical miles west-north-west of Cape Reinga.

The vessel was equipped with satellite phone, a spot device which allows regular tracking signals to be sent manually, and an emergency beacon. The beacon had not been activated, Mr Blakemore said.

After concerns were raised by family and friends, the RCCNZ launched a "communications search'' on June 14, using a range of methods to broadcast alerts to the vessel and others in the area.

RCCNZ search and rescue mission coordinator Kevin Banaghan said an RNZAF P3 Orion had completed two extensive searches.

On Tuesday a search area of 160,000 square nautical miles was covered, to the immediate north-north-east of New Zealand, based on the vessel being disabled and drifting.

On Wednesday a search was completed of 324,000 square nautical miles between northern New Zealand and the Australian coast, based on the vessel suffering damage but continuing to make progress towards Australia.

Records showed that conditions at the last known position for the vessel were very rough, with winds of 80km/h, gusting to 110km/h, and swells of up to eight metres.

- APNZ

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