A solo sailor who was knocked unconscious by the boom on his yacht 20km off the Wairarapa coast has been saved by a team rescue effort from police, Life Flight, rescue co-ordination staff and a nearby fishing crew.
The 70-year-old sailor was sailing from Auckland to Picton when he was struck by the boom about 20km off the coast of Te Awaiti at about 11am yesterday.
After regaining consciousness, he made a mayday call which was picked up by a nearby fishing vessel, the Otakou, which was about 30 minutes away.
Crew on the Otakou used the ship's inflatable rescue boat to bring the injured sailor on board.
The Westpac Rescue helicopter flew to the scene and lowered a paramedic and maritime police officer on to the fishing vessel.
Life Flight crewman Logan Taylor said the sailor, who was confused and still in pain, was winched to safety at about 1pm and flown to Wellington Hospital.
With only 1m swells and 18 knot winds, the conditions were good, but winching people on and off the boat was a tricky operation as the boat was moving as well as pitching up and down, Mr Taylor said.
"The boat has got to be moving so the helicopter has to fly at the same speed."
It was one of the more difficult missions he had been involved with, Mr Logan said.
"It's up there. It was just due to the nature of the job -- when you've got to use the winch you've got all the variables against you."
The maritime police officer sailed the yacht, the Solaise, to a rendezvous with the police launch Lady Elizabeth IV, which would tow the yacht into Wellington.
Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand search and rescue mission coordinator Chris Wilson said the sailor had "done all the right things" and had been making regular reports to maritime radio updating his position.
"The prompt actions of the Otakou crew in retrieving the man from his yacht and communicating with the helicopter made the winch operation safer.
"The helicopter crew have done a great job in getting people on board and having a maritime police staff member with sailing experience available to be part of the operation means the man will also have his yacht waiting for him when he recovers."