Ocean rescuers reach stricken yacht - World - smh.com.au
Monster wave smashes yacht
May 2, 2007
John Blackman, (left) is missing, while Dale Peterson has a broken leg.
The crew of an Australian yacht face a wrenching wait for rescue in rough seas with one man lost and its skipper seriously hurt after it was smashed by a monster wave.
John Blackman, 55, from Claremont in Perth, was at the helm of the 17.5-metre fibreglass ketch Cowrie Dancer when a 12-metre wave hit 2200 kilometres south-east of Cape Town on Monday night.
His lifeline snapped and he was washed overboard into freezing waters as the storm smashed the mizzen mast of the Fremantle-registered vessel.
An online voyage tracking system, YOTREPS, shows the yacht's position on the day of the tragedy, with the report: "Making north to ride over the southern lows. Sunny, squally 30/40kts."
Late last night, the yacht's owner and skipper, Dale Peterson, and another crew member, Nicholas Lawson, had managed to start the boat's engine and begin a search for Mr Blackman.
No sign had been found of the missing sailor, the Cape Town Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre said this morning.
Mr Peterson, of Perth, suffered a suspected broken leg when the yacht was knocked down about 8pm on Monday and Mr Lawson, 38, also from Perth, is believed to have a badly bruised leg and cuts to his head.
Mr Peterson's wife, Liz Paxton, said she got a call from her husband on a satellite phone at 1am on Tuesday. She said Mr Blackman was wearing an inflatable safety harness, but by last night had been in the freezing waters for almost 24 hours.
She admitted she would be extremely surprised if Mr Blackman was found.
"That would take a miracle,'' she told ABC Radio.
"They had a major knock down and lost the mizzen mast and the steering wheel and so on overboard, and the life raft, and various other damage.
"The situation has been stabilised and conditions have improved, and they are waiting for the rescue vessel.''
Ms Paxton said her husband was not sure if he had broken his leg.
"He is in a lot of pain ... he is not sure if it is broken or what it is. He can't be moved and he is waiting for a doctor to assess this."
She said her husband was very upset about the loss of Mr Blackman.
"John is a very good, very close friend and he is very distressed.
"He is also a very competent sailor and with Nick aboard ... and basically in control of the situation, he's as well as can be expected."
She described Mr Blackman as a "great guy".
She said the voyage began in October last year when her experienced sailor husband, Mr Lawson and two other crew members left Fremantle bound for Hobart, then Chile, and to cruise the Patagonian canal.
Mr Blackman joined the boat at the bottom of Argentina.
"They went to Antarctica on their way to Cape Town," Ms Paxton said.
Mr Peterson was a very experienced sailor who had circumnavigated the globe, Fremantle Sailing Club Cruising Captain Bernie Siddall told smh.com.au this morning.
"He's probably the most experienced guy in our group,'' he said.
"He spent over six years going around the world - he's a very experienced guy, so something's gone wrong."
A fourth crew member, believed to be a South African, Carol Erasmus, was unhurt.
A South African research vessel, the SA Agulhas, was last night pounding through heavy seas to reach the Cowrie Dancer, but was at least a day's sailing away.
The Agulhas had a doctor and helicopters on board, but was still about 320 kilometres from the stricken vessel, Cape Town Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre's Mark Steed told smh.com.au this morning.
He expected the Agulhas to reach the Cowrie Dancer during the early hours of tomorrow morning (Sydney time).
"The weather's very heavy - there are rough seas and strong winds,'' Mr Steed said.
"The [Cowrie Dancer] is coping well - the master is quite badly injured, but reported to be doing well and Mr Lawson has taken charge.
"The Agulhas has been in direct contact with the yacht - it is a very good vessel for the rescue.
"It has medical facilities, a doctor on board and helicopters - tomorrow it will send the helicopters up ahead to go and take a look at the yacht.''
Mr Steed admitted he held little hope Mr Blackman would be found alive.
He said: "The chances of finding him are very slim. It was quite deep sea, 750 miles from the nearest South African coast and about 500 miles north of Marion Island. It really was in the middle of nowhere."
- with David Braithwaite, AAP
Ocean rescuers reach stricken yacht
Rescuers have reached a stricken yacht in the Southern Ocean with two injured Australians aboard and are now staging a delicate operation to transfer them to safety
But the desperate search for a third Australian washed overboard by a massive wave in wild seas has been called off, the South African rescuers said.
Three West Australian men
and a South African woman were aboard the Cowrie Dancer when it was knocked down by the huge wave 750 nautical miles south-east of the South African coast on Monday, the country's rescue centre said today.
Perth man John Blackman, 55, was washed overboard, despite being secured to the yacht, and is presumed drowned in freezing seas south of Durban.
South African Maritime Search and Rescue duty officer Mark Hellerberg said a rescue boat launched from South African research
vessel, SA Agulhas, which has helicopters and medical
facilities aboard, was alongside the yacht.
"They are busy strapping in the skipper onto a stretcher, bringing him across and hopefully in an hour or so all crew members will be transferred from the Cowrie Dancer to the SA Agulhas," Mr Hellerberg.
The 17.5-metre ketch's owner and skipper, Dale Peterson, an experienced sailor, was believed to have a broken leg, Mr Hellerberg said.
Fellow Australian Nicholas Lawson is believed to have a possible broken hip and bruises and cuts to his scalp.
The South African mechanical engineer
, Carol Erasmus, was uninjured.
Two hours before the SA Agulhas reached the Cowrie Dancer, helicopters were launched to search for Mr Blackman, who was understood not to have been wearing a lifejacket, but were unable to find him, Mr Hellerberg said.
"We have stopped the search for the missing person," Mr Hellerberg said.