70-year-old solo sailor rescued after head injury

A 70-year-old solo sailor has been rescued from his 10m yacht 20 km off the Wairarapa coast after being struck on the head by the vessel’s boom.

The man, sailing from Auckland to Picton, made a mayday call shortly before 11am, and the Rescue Coordination Centre NZ managed the rescue operation. The fishing vessel Otakou responded immediately and with its rescue boat brought the sailor on board.

The Westpac Rescue helicopter from Wellington flew to the scene and lowered a paramedic and a Maritime Police officer with sailing experience on to the fishing vessel.

The injured man was winched to safety at around 1pm and flown to Wellington Hospital.

With help from the Otakou crew, the Maritime Police officer boarded the yacht Solaise and is sailing her to rendezvous later this afternoon with the Police launch Lady Elizabeth IV, which will tow the vessel to Wellington.

RCCNZ search and rescue mission coordinator Chris Wilson said the injured man was well prepared for the voyage.

“He contacted us before leaving Auckland to advise of the trip and was making regular reports to Maritime Radio to update his position,” she said. “He’s done all the right things and that’s been very helpful in getting assistance to him.

“The prompt actions of the Otakou crew in retrieving the man from his yacht and communicating with the helicopter made the winch operation safer.

“The helicopter crew have done a great job in getting people on board and having a Maritime Police staff member with sailing experience available to be part of the operation means the man will also have his yacht waiting for him when he recovers.”