The Kiwi crew of a $450,000 yacht that lost its keel in the middle of the Pacific Ocean have been plucked to safety by a Mexican fishing ship.

Professional racing yacht Ran Tan II was en route from Auckland to California for the start of the Transpac race when on Thursday its keel sunk to the bottom of the ocean.

The three men on board - Nic Finlayson, Keith Hogan and Kosta Popov - were forced to send out a mayday about 3000 kms off the coast of Mexico when they noticed issues with the underside of the boat. They then weathered a nervous night on board.

The next morning the keel detached completely with the crew remaining on the yacht, despite the risk of it tipping over.

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New Zealand racing uyacht Ran Tan II adrift in the Pacific Ocean. The crew of three were picked up by a Mexican fishing boat, Tuna Dolores, after the Ran Tan split in half. Photo / Supplied
New Zealand racing uyacht Ran Tan II adrift in the Pacific Ocean. The crew of three were picked up by a Mexican fishing boat, Tuna Dolores, after the Ran Tan split in half. Photo / Supplied

Biding their time until a Mexican tuna boat collected them seven hours later, they drank beer and ate crackers with cheese in consolation over the loss of their boat.

Boat owner Brian Petersen, who had returned to Auckland after sailing the first half of the trip, told the Herald fortunately the boat managed to stay upright.

"It could have been worse. It was lucky to have happened in a pretty benign part of the ocean, flat with warm seas. The guys are safe. It could have happened in the middle of the race, travelling 20 knots in the middle of the night and flipped over."

Petersen praised the quick actions and coordination between the rescue centres and the Mexican fishing vessels involved.

"I was a bit stunned when it happened. First I got a text saying 'mayday, mayday' and that the keel had fallen off. I thought it was April 1, then realised it was genuine and all the wheels got in motion."

Shortly after the mayday call, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand in Wellington were in contact, before the United States Coastguard in Honolulu.

The operation to resue three Kiwi sailors. Photo / Supplied
The operation to resue three Kiwi sailors. Photo / Supplied

The three men were rescued unharmed from their life raft by crew of the Azteca 5, which had travelled for 13 hours using a helicopter and speedboat to find them.

The shipwrecked sailors were later transferred to the Azteca 10, another vessel of the same company Pesca Azteca, which was taking them to Mazatlan port where they were due to arrive on Tuesday afternoon.

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Losing Ran Tan II though was like losing a "member of the family", Petersen said.

"It's been a very successful racing boat. We have competed all around New Zealand and the Pacific Islands."

Map showing where Ran Tan II ran into trouble on Thursday. Photo / Supplied
Map showing where Ran Tan II ran into trouble on Thursday. Photo / Supplied

Petersen sailed the first leg of the journey, leaving on Saturday over Easter, until Marquesas Islands, from where he flew back to Auckland about 10 days ago.

Petersen dived under the boat to perform a routine check then and found no issues.

"We are not sure exactly what happened. I haven't been able to catch up with the guys yet but we'll be having a full debrief to find out."

Mexican fishing vessel Azteca 10, which is taking the Kiwi crew to Mezatlan port. Photo / Supplied
Mexican fishing vessel Azteca 10, which is taking the Kiwi crew to Mezatlan port. Photo / Supplied

Petersen purchased the yacht three and a half years ago and had competed in a number of races including the 2017 Sydney to Hobart race.

He was investigating options to salvage the boat, but was not sure yet if it would be worthwhile.

Mexican fishing vessel Azteca 5, which first rescued the stricken Kiwi sailors. Photo / Supplied
Mexican fishing vessel Azteca 5, which first rescued the stricken Kiwi sailors. Photo / Supplied

"Because of its construction with foam and carbon it won't sink, but it might roll over at some point. It will likely drift west, become a fish aggregation device and eventually bump into a reef somewhere and disintegrate."

Because of where the incident occurred it was not covered by insurance, Petersen said.

Despite that, the ordeal had not put him off sailing.

"It might just take a little longer to get back into it."