12 Jan 2017

Thousands of kms over the sea in a 6m catamaran

12:12 pm on 12 January 2017

News that six year-old Que Langdon and her father, Alan, were found in Australia might have confounded many who did not believe their small boat could handle the journey.

Alan Langdon and his six-year-old daughter have not been heard from since 17 December when they left Kawhia Harbour aboard this catamaran, bound for the Bay of Islands.

Alan Langdon and his six-year-old daughter, Que, left Kawhia Harbour aboard this catamaran. Photo: Supplied / NZ Police

Australian authorities told New Zealand police yesterday afternoon they had been found in the town of Ulladulla in New South Wales. They were spotted by a member of the public, who recognised them from posters put up around the coastal township.

On 17 December, when the pair left Kawhia, an inlet south of Raglan, most thought they were on a pre-Christmas journey to the Bay of Islands. Those close to Mr Langdon - including his estranged wife, Ariane Wyler - knew he was capable of the 2600km crossing of the often stormy Tasman Sea to Australia.

"He knows the sea, he knows the wind - he understands that and he's a very capable man. He's able to fix things if they go wrong, but I don't think anyone who's right in their mind would tackle their six-year-old girl from New Zealand across the Tasman in a six-metre catamaran," Ms Wyler told RNZ in a recent interview.

The other person who believed it was possible was the man hired by Ms Wyler to find Que, child recovery investigator Col Chapman.

An experienced yachtsman, Alan Pattie of Nelson, said the type of boat Mr Langdon sailed was entirely capable of the journey, which was about 1180 nautical miles, but it was foolhardy taking a child.

He said the journey in a small boat was not entirely remarkable for an experienced sailor, as the type of catamaran owned by Mr Langdon had sailed around the world.

"The Wharram catamaran, which he sailed on, is basically a copy of a Polynesian catamaran, and they're surprisingly seaworthy. They've been proven over time to be quite reliable for sailing long distances - but that was one of the smaller ones, the 21-footer."

Alan Langdon and his 6-year-old daughter, Que, were reported missing after leaving Kawhia Harbour in Waikato on a small catamaran on 17 December. Australian authorities told New Zealand police this afternoon they had been found in the town of Ulladulla in New South Wales.

The trip is about 2600km, which is more than 1000 nautical miles. Photo: Google

Mr Pattie said at the time of their departure from Kawhia, the weather was not ideal.

"I would say he had some fairly awful weather getting out of here, but once you're out there it can be anyone's guess. The guy's obviously a competent sailor, but it was highly irresponsible to go to sea with a six-year-old kid," he said.

Mr Langdon told the Milton Ulladulla Times one of the catamaran's rudders broke four days into the journey. He was left to steer with one rudder and he had "learned a lot about sailing".

He told the newspaper they were always safe, but unable to let anyone know.

Que Langdon, six, and her father Alan Langdon have not been heard from since they left Kawhia on a sailing trip on 17 December.

A member of public recognised Alan and Que Langdon from posters a child recovery expert put up in the NSW town. Photo: Facebook

The pair's discovery yesterday came after New Zealand police carried out an extensive search of the coast from Wellington to the Bay of Islands. It was called off last week and re-assigned as a missing persons case. Interpol alerted Australian authorities about the missing pair on Monday.

Mr Chapman said early on he did not believe Mr Langdon's voyage was an innocent sailing trip, and alleged it was another attempt to take Que and elude the family court system.

"Despite initial thoughts to the contrary - and this is nothing against your New Zealand authorities because they did feel it [crossing the Tasman] was foolhardy, that he wouldn't attempt it and no one in their reasonable mind would attempt [it] - but yes, they did - and landed safely."

Mr Chapman said there would be much to sort out officially before it was clear what would happen next. He believed Que would be returned to New Zealand. He spoke with Ms Wyler soon after Que was found.

He said she was "elated and thrilled and beside herself with glee", but at the same time confused. He said it was unclear at this point whether she would travel from Switzerland, where she was currently based, to Australia or to New Zealand.

"New Zealand is where the family court process is at the moment, and Australia and New Zealand have a very strong agreement in the family court system so I believe she's heading back, but it may be some time," Mr Chapman said.

He told RNZ this morning Mr Langdon remained at risk of trying to flee again. Authorities were aware of that.

New Zealand police said they were liaising with their counterparts in Australia and awaiting further information about Mr Langdon's journey.