The solo sailor plucked out of the South Pacific Ocean after his yacht sank in 6m swells will set sail again this weekend.

"It's not the end of adventure in my life," said Phil van der Mespel of the disaster that unfolded earlier this month. "It's in my DNA - I think adventure should be my middle name."

His first sailing experience following his close encounter with death will be with sailors on the classic yacht Waitangi, which is more than a century old.

He said he would even consider solo-sailing again if he owns another yacht.


Van der Mespel was rescued by the cargo ship the Norfolk Guardian after his uninsured family yacht Waimanu sank about 650km northwest of New Zealand early on November 18.

The 56-year-old experienced ocean yachtsman had sailed solo to Vanuatu, arriving in early July. His wife Jenny flew there and they sailed together for four months before Phil headed home alone.

Sailing into a 40 knot wind in 6-7m seas, the yacht's single mast fell. The base of one of its wire stays ripped out a 400mm by 100mm hole in the deck of the 9.6m-long boat. Water gushed in.

Van der Mespel made a mayday radio call, tried his hand-held vhf radio but the batteries were flat, fired red flares and realised his boat was sinking.

He calmly gathered what he needed, inflated the liferaft, stepped into it, and cast off from Waimanu, which soon slipped below the waves.

Within hours an air force Hercules was flying around him after he set off his emergency locator beacon and the Rescue Coordination Centre had picked up its signal.

Two more hours and at 11.50am, van der Mespel was picked up by the Norfolk Guardian in a rescue made dangerous by the high seas.

The ship anchored just off Norfolk Island but because of the swell it was expected van der Mespel would have to wait on board for several days for a calmer spell.


However, a charter fishing boat got him off on November 20 when the seas "looked more settled". From the police station he spoke to New Zealand High Commission staff in Australia about getting home, then to his daughter Anita, a travel agent.

"She said the next plane's in 40 minutes. She ticketed me on her Visa card."

He flew to Sydney, was there only an hour, then flew to Auckland, arriving early on November 21 to an airport welcome from Jenny, their son Joel, and Anita.

Asked if there were tears, Phil said: "No, I think we all laughed. They know me pretty well."

He emphasised to the Herald the importance of the liferaft course he had attended which involved exercises at the Mt Albert wave pool such as getting into a liferaft blindfolded and having to turn it right-side-up in the water.

"Once you knew there was a system, a technique to it and you understood the system and the technique, I think it's a lifesaver."