9 Apr 2009

Stranded Italian yachties rescued

12:01 pm on 9 April 2009

Two Italian sailors who were adrift in the Pacific Ocean between Chile and New Zealand have been rescued.

The men, a father and son, had been awaiting rescue since the early hours of Monday morning when their yacht's mast snapped and their motor failed.

Pietro Fresi, 64, and Vittorio Fresi, 34, left Italy in September on the 10-metre Onitron to retrace the path sailed by commercial ships in the 19th century.

Their voyage along the clipper route was expected to take up to 300 days, however they became stranded halfway between New Zealand and Chile.

The oil tanker Hellespont Trooper reached the sailors around midnight on Wednesday. The crew was unable to rescue the pair until Thursday morning due to strong winds and heavy seas.

The Rescue Coordination Centre in New Zealand says the pair are in good health and will stay on board the tanker until it reaches Argentina.

Maritime New Zealand says that when the men's yacht was dismasted they were able to send a distress call to Rome, where authorities in turn alerted New Zealand's Rescue Co-ordination Centre at 5.44am on Monday.

At one stage, the area where the men's yacht was drifting was buffeted by winds of up to 45 knots and swells of up to seven metres.