Orion helps rescue trio in liferaft

By Naomi Larkin

Three men adrift in a liferaft after their yacht sank in a cyclone have been found south-west of New Caledonia.

The French trio, who were forced to abandon their yacht, Armini 55, on Sunday after being caught in a storm associated with Cyclone Frank, were spotted by a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion yesterday afternoon.

The aircraft left the Air Force base at Whenuapai on Monday morning but the search was called off after dark and resumed again yesterday with help from the Royal Australian Air Force.

The raft was found 547km south-west of Noumea, about 96km from where the yacht sank and just outside the search area. Corporal Sarah Jardine said the Orion circled the raft until the French Navy vessel Jacques Cartier could rescue the men around 6.30pm.

The men appeared to be in good spirits and were waving at the aircraft.

"They were in 3m to 4m swells and about 35 knot winds. On board the liferaft they have a parachute which they activated and it acts like an anchor. In those winds they are only drifting about 3 knots."

Squadron Leader Tim Walshe said the weather conditions during the search were rough and it was lucky the raft was spotted. "We were in a turn at the end of a leg and one of our new squadron members spotted it out one of the aft windows."

The Orion and its crew of 15 arrived back at the base around 9.15pm.

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