A yachtsman is "incredibly lucky" to have escaped unscathed after his catamaran capsized during a trip in Nelson.

Nelson Police are urging people to take care on the water after a rescue mission last Wednesday saw a yachtsman stranded at sea for five hours.

Police were called to the Search and Rescue operation after a 27-year-old man attempted to sail an old 12ft Hobie Cat catamaran from Nelson Harbour to Jacket Island near Motueka.

Approximately halfway across the bay the catamaran was capsized by a gust of wind and the yachtsman ended up in the water.

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The man then spent about two hours in the water trying to right the yacht – which, due to their design, are very difficult for one person to right.

After two hours the yachtsman was able to right the small yacht and attempted to sail, but due to having one sunken hull the catamaran kept capsizing.

Fortunately for the man, the tide at the time was running towards the shore, so he was carried towards land and spotted by a member of the public on the port hills.

Police were called and five search vessels including Coastguard, BP Surf Rescue, Nelson Port Harbourmaster and the Tasman District Harbourmaster were tasked to retrieve the yachtsman and his vessel.

The Nelson Rescue Helicopter was also called in to search.

Police said the most concerning part of the rescue was the fact that apart from a lifejacket, the yachtsman had no safety equipment on board.
Police said the most concerning part of the rescue was the fact that apart from a lifejacket, the yachtsman had no safety equipment on board.

"At approximately 12.30am the rescue helicopter crew spotted the floating hull of the catamaran using night-vision equipment," Sergeant Malcolm York of Nelson Police Search and Rescue said.

"The Coastguard were dispatched to the location and the yachtsman was plucked from the water.

"It then took the Coastguard about an hour and a half to bring the stricken vessel and the wet and cold yachtsman back to shore."

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The Hobie Cat was found to have several leaks due to the age and condition, but York said the most concerning thing was the yachtsman had no safety equipment on board apart from a lifejacket.

"He had no way of communicating whatsoever - no radio, cell phone, distress flares, a personal locator beacon or a light of any description."

York said the yachtsman was incredibly lucky to have come out of the ordeal unscathed.

"If weather and tide conditions had not been so favourable, the outcome could have been tragic.

"Even for a vessel of that size when undertaking a journey of that length and distance from the shore, the yachtsman should have carried a small handheld marine VHF radio or a cell phone in a waterproof bag, and distress flares or a personal locator beacon.

"With one of these items he could have called for assistance a lot earlier, and made the task of locating and assisting him a lot easier and safer for the volunteers who went to look for him."

Police and Coastguard strongly encourage all people entering the water on any size craft to carefully consider and plan their trips.

They advise to take at least two forms of communication, make sure you know the environment, have the right equipment on board and act responsibly at all times.