Air NZ flight helps find missing yachtie

When Glenn Ey's yacht Streaker was hit by a large wave, he set off a distress beacon and two flights - including one from Air NZ - helped pinpoint his location. Photo / AMSA
When Glenn Ey's yacht Streaker was hit by a large wave, he set off a distress beacon and two flights - including one from Air NZ - helped pinpoint his location. Photo / AMSA

A rescued yachtsman is "lucky to be alive", after more than 16 hours spent drifting at sea and a rescue mission that saw two commercial flights - including an Air New Zealand jet - swoop in to help.

Glenn Ey, 44, arrived back in Sydney just after 3am local time (5am NZ time) this morning, after being rescued some 270 nautical miles from Sydney's coast.

The Queenslander had set sail from Pittwater in Sydney's northern beaches two weeks ago, en route to New Zealand.

But he ran into trouble on Sunday when his 11-metre yacht Streaker was hit by a large wave.

With a snapped mast and no fuel, he began drifting in a "remote" area of the ocean, sparking him to activate his emergency beacon at about 8am local time on Tuesday.

Police said his family in Queensland also reported him missing at around the same time.

My Ey said he began to worry when he realised how far from land he was.

"I wasn't afraid until I knew where I was," he told reporters after arriving in Sydney.

"When I knew I was 270 miles (434.5 km) rather than 60 or 70 I was a little bit concerned. But by this time these guys had found me."

The yachtsman was recovered off the coast of Sydney at midnight (AEDT) on Tuesday by NSW Water Police and began his journey back to land.

But not before two commercial flights were called in to help with the search and rescue by getting his exact location.

The pilot of an Air Canada Boeing 777 flight from from Vancouver, Captain Andrew Robertson said the plane swooped down to 1524 metres, while the crew searched the ocean for Mr Ey using binoculars.

"We didn't know if we were looking for a sunken boat or one that was still floating," Captain Robertson told AAP on Wednesday.

An Air New Zealand A320 en route from Auckland to Sydney was also enlisted to help in the search and rescue.

It diverted to the area to provide confirmation of the yacht's position and gain more information about the nature of distress.

Detective Inspector Anthony Brazzill from the Marine Area Command said Mr Ey's adventure will be one to remember.

"He can consider himself very lucky to be alive," Detective Inspector Brazzill said in a statement this morning.

"It's been a long and tiring journey and I am sure he is looking forward to having a proper meal, a hot shower and seeing his friends and family."

All sailors should be using emergency locator beacons, he said.

Mr Ey's yacht is still drifting at sea, where police said it will require salvaging at a later date.

-AAP/ nzherald.co.nz

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