Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Text message factored into Nina search

Daniella Wright sent a text message via the boat's satellite phone on June 4
Daniella Wright sent a text message via the boat's satellite phone on June 4

A text message sent from a young woman aboard the missing yacht Nina, which was only received yesterday, was factored into today's search for the vessel, searchers say.

Seven people were on board the 84-year-old wooden vessel, which was travelling from Opua in the Bay of Islands to Australia. The crew have not been heard from since June 4 when it encountered a storm.

It wasn't until yesterday that the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) obtained a text message from 18-year-old American crew member Daniella Wright which she sent via the boat's satellite phone on June 4.

RCCNZ said the message had not been delivered to its intended recipient by satellite company Iridium, so RCCNZ and the US Government had worked to have the contents of the message released.

The message said: "THANKS STORM SAILS SHREDDED LAST NIGHT, NOW BARE POLES. GOINING 4KT 310DEG WILL UPDATE COURSE INFO @ 6PM."

RCCNZ spokesman Nigel Clifford said the message, which gave an approximate position, was factored into today's radar search covering more than 97,000 square nautical miles.

"The text message gives a clearer indication of the condition of the vessel on 4 June, and the weather that was being experienced at the time," he said.

"The text message clearly indicates that the Nina was affected by the storm, but gives no indication of immediate distress."

While it showed that Nina had survived the storm up to that point, very poor weather had continued in the area for many hours and was followed by other storms.

"The text message, in isolation, does not indicate what might have happened subsequently," Mr Clifford said.

Ms Wright's father, Ricky Wright, told news website KATC the message gave him hope and he estimated Nina was just four or five days from making port in Australia.

"My prediction is they are making 3 knots and the storm pushed them north of where they thought they would be.

"The main search area was south of where they are."

The storms had limited the boat's ability to make speed and manoeuvre as it worked against the currents, he said.

"To put it in perspective, it's like sailing from the Mediterranean to the Bahamas. Everyone follows the same course along the trade winds. They are doing the same thing, just against the prevailing winds."

Lazslo Nemeth, the son of 73-year-old maritime technology expert Evi Nemeth, told 3 News he also believed the crew were still alive.

"I believe New Zealand RCC is doing an excellent job. Of course I want more. Of course the other families want more. I want to give my mum a hug," he said.

Also on board were the boat's American owner David Dyche, 58, his 60-year-old wife, Rosemary and their son David, 17.

British man Matthew Wooton, 35, and an American man named Kyle were also travelling with the family.

The search has now covered almost 700,000 sq km.

RCCNZ said decisions about the search operation would be considered overnight and tomorrow.

- APNZ

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