16 Jan 2011

British sailor feared drowned off NZ coast

5:11 am on 16 January 2011

An official search has been called off for an elderly British sailor who is missing, presumed drowned, off Cape Reinga.

Malcolm Widdilove, 77, told relatives on 4 January that he was in Opua in the Bay of Islands and intending to sail to Norfolk Island.

Police say divers found his yacht Boadicea submerged off rocks south of Tauputoputo Bay in the Far North on Wednesday evening.

A passport and other personal belongings have since been retrieved from the vessel.

Houhora Senior Constable Chris Yarnton says there have been no sightings or distress calls and the search has now been stopped until more information is received.

"We've thoroughly searched that area now over quite a few days and located next to nothing.

"We think that things have gone wrong a reasonable way out to sea, and the boat has sunk out there and drifted in."

Police are appealing for sightings of Mr Widdilove and the eight-metre yacht so they can establish his last movements.