30 Mar 2010

Yacht search fails to show what happened to skipper

6:01 am on 30 March 2010

A forensic examination of a yacht found adrift with only a dog aboard near the Chatham Islands has so far failed to provide any clues as to what happened to the skipper.

South African Paul van Rensburg left Tauranga with his dog Juanita on 12 March to sail to Gisborne, where he was due to start a new job, on a voyage expected to last three days.

The experienced sailor's 11-metre yacht Tafadzwa was found drifting about 110km west of the Chatham Islands by an Air Force Orion on a training flight on Sunday.

The crew of a fishing vessel diverted to the scene found Juanita, a two-year-old retriever cross, alive amongst his raft, dinghy, emergency beacon and a kayak when they boarded the boat on Monday morning.

The boat was towed on Monday to the Chatham Islands, where Constable Kane Haerewa is carrying out a forensic examination.

Constable Haerewa says he has assessed the damage as well notes, navigation charts and GPS co-ordinates and it is clear the boat took a battering. He plans to complete the examination on Tuesday morning.

He says more details will be released after he reports his findings to Mr van Rensburg's family.

Mr Haerewa says Juanita will stay with him for a few days.

Decision to stop search 'correct'

Maritime New Zealand is standing by its decision to suspend the search for the Tafadzwa.

Rescue Co-ordination Centre mission co-ordinator Geoff Lunt says the right decision was made with the information available and there is nothing more the centre could do.

He says the search areas calculated by his colleagues had been exhaustively searched.

The centre's Nigel Clifford told Checkpoint it is likely Mr van Rensburg lost his balance during a storm, and fell overboard. He says a full investigation will be carried out.