Four stricken sailors have been rescued from a drifting life raft after abandoning their yacht near Great Barrier Island.

The four crewmen abandoned ship 90km east-north-east of Great Barrier Island.

Rescue Coordination Centre NZ (RCCNZ) was monitoring the yacht's position, after it was alerted by satellite phone that the yacht, the Squander, had suffered rigging damage while trying to reach Tonga, and was turning back.

At 9.30am RCCNZ then received a distress alert from its emergency beacon as the four crew abandoned their yacht into their life raft.

Advertisement

A Maersk container ship in the area was able to get near the stricken yachties but was unable to make the rescue.

Two Auckland Westpac Rescue helicopters flew to the scene, and one was able to successfully winch them from their life raft at 12.30pm.

The crew were flown back to Auckland.

RCCNZ Manager Mike Hill said the rescue highlighted how important it was to carry the appropriate emergency communications equipment.

"If you can't make contact, no one will know you need to be rescued."

This crew were well equipped for the journey they were undertaking and had a distress beacon, satellite phone, HF radio and VHF radio​, Hill said.

"As a result, they had the right communications device for their location and were able to let us quickly know when they needed RCCNZ's assistance."

The four people were reportedly shaken but only suffered minor injuries.