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Yacht lost in storm off north NZ, respected yachtie dies

by Sail-World NZ 15 Oct 22:27 NZDT 14 October 2019
Chief Pilot Roger Hortop looks out on the 60kt winds and 5metre plus sea state from where four sailors were rescued by Westpac Helicopter Trust crews © Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust

A person has died and another is in a critical condition after a 47ft yacht sank in stormy conditions 20 nautical miles off Cape Brett on the east coast of Northland, New Zealand

The incident occurred around mid-day Monday, conditions at the time were recorded inside the Bay of Islands at 48kts gusting 60kts, blowing from the east, and would be expected to be stronger offshore.

Conditions have since moderated but sea heights averaging over 4 metres are predicted, with occasional swells 30% higher. Television news reports have it that waves were running at up to nine metres.

Cape Brett is at the entrance to the Bay of Islands and is the turning point for the Coastal Classic yacht race which will be run in 10 days time.

The weather conditions had been predicted yesterday and appropriate warnings issued.

The 47ft Bavaria yacht was returning to New Zealand from Fiji. According to a report in NZ Herald today, October 16, the yacht Essence was to be sold at the end of this voyage.

The crew attempted to launch their liferaft, but it was blown away in the strong winds.

One crew member Bruce Goodwin was wearing a personal EPIRB which he activated before entering the water. It was that signal which alerted Maritime Rescue who were able to task the P3 Orion which was at the search area about 1hr 40 minutes later. It dropped a liferaft which two of the crew were able to enter, the other two remained in the sea.

Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust have released video shot by Co-Pilot Norm McDonald shot this dramatic video before and during the rescue as the yachties were winched on board. Intensive Care Paramedic Karl Taylor is in the winch-line retrieving the patients. Operating the winch-line is Air Crew Officer Mark Cannell.

Late Monday night, various media sources are quoting a statement issued by Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club saying the man who died was a club member Stuart Pedersen, and since confirmed.

"You may have seen news reports about a yacht which sank earlier today off Cape Brett, with one sailor dead, and another three in hospital in serious condition," says the club in the statement, reported in SunLive.

"My information is that the deceased sailor is one of our leading club members, tornado sailor and chairman of BOPSAT, Stuart Pedersen.

"Fellow club member Bruce Goodwin, Stuart's wife Pamela and Pamela's brother-in-law Steve are the survivors.

"Bruce and Steve have been released from hospital but unfortunately, Pamela is still in intensive care."

Stuart was well known in the Tauranga community, SunLive reports

As well as being a sailor and a savvy investor, Stuart was also an ACT Party candidate.

He worked in the economics and investment fields, and was a private investor and an active volunteer in the community through Rotary and as Chairman of the Bay of Plenty Sailing Academy Trust, the statement concluded.

An earlier statement issued by NZ Police reads:

Police and emergency services are responding to a water incident off the coast of Northland.

Emergency services were notified following reports a yacht sank about 37 kilometres off the coast of Cape Brett.

A mayday call was received about 12.30pm today after the 47 foot yacht got into trouble in the bad weather.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand have been co-ordinating a response.

Two rescue helicopters from Auckland, a Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion, a Coastguard vessel and a merchant vessel were sent to respond.

The P3 Orion dropped a life raft to the crew and then the four occupants of the boat were winched by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

Sadly, one person has subsequently died.

Police are in process of notifying their next of kin.

Another person is in a critical condition and is being transported to hospital by helicopter.

The remaining people who were on board are in moderate condition and are being treated by ambulance.

The situation is still ongoing, and it is too soon to speculate on what caused the boat to sink.

Yachting New Zealand chief executive David Abercrombie commented on the passing of Stuart Pedersen.

"Stu made a massive contribution to the sport and was also just a great guy," Yachting New Zealand chief executive David Aberombie said. "He's going to be missed and our thoughts are with his family and friends as well as the crew, especially Stu's wife Pamela who is still in hospital.

"Stu had a big impact on the sport nationally through his involvement in class associations, especially windsurfing, and his work with young people in the Bay of Plenty region. He was an active club member of the Tauranga Yacht & Power Boat Club and long-time chairman of the Bay of Plenty Sailing Academy Trust."

Pedersen began sailing as a youngster in the 1970s and completed a circumnavigation of the globe with his family between 2000 and 2007. He sailed a Tornado in Tauranga and also established a junior windsurfing fleet at the yacht club.

For a longer tribute to Stuart Pedersen click here

To donate to Auckland Westpac Helicopter Trust and keep this vital service in the air www.rescuehelicopter.org.nz. You or one of your friends might be the next to need their services.

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