8 Nov 2012

Rescuers on way to help injured yachties in Pacific

7:20 pm on 8 November 2012

Two people injured on a yacht in distress off the coast of Tonga will have to remain on board until they can be rescued on Friday.

A French navy aircraft from Noumea has flown over the area and established radio contact with the crew of the damaged Windigo, a 52-year-old British man and a New Zealand woman from Auckland, aged 43.

A New Zealand Air Force Orion is back in position above the yacht on Thursday.

The yachties are understood to have suffered mild to moderate head injuries after their 11.6-metre-long yacht rolled after leaving Tonga on Tuesday. The pair set off an emergency beacon the following day.

The vessel is about 700km southwest of the Pacific island in rough seas.

New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Centre says the crew have a liferaft, but do not want to use it until the yacht becomes too dangerous to stay on.

The rescue centre has diverted a freighter to the yacht's position and is likely to arrive in the area early on Friday, about the same time as another yacht, Adventure Bound.

Offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Otago is in the Hauraki Gulf and has been requested to assist on Thursday. It will take about 35 hours to reach the Windigo's location.

It has been established that a second beacon activated early on Thursday south-west of Tonga is from a Tongan fishing boat which has lost power. That vessel is not in immediate danger.