A New Zealand
Air Force plane heading to the central Pacific to search for three missing Kiribati fisherman has found a damaged British yacht in a remote
area of the ocean, officials said on Sunday.
Fears had been held for Peter Bernfeld, the sole sailor on the 38-foot British catamaran
Troutbridge after he lost
contact with an accompanying yacht in a storm on Thursday night after they set sail from Fiji
The New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre (NZRCC) said the yacht was found by a New Zealand Air Force Orion which left Auckland
early on Sunday to begin an unrelated search for three Kiribati fishermen.
The aircraft made radio
contact with Bernfeld, who reported the catamaran
had sustained hull
and rig damage and was leaking.
However, the pumps were working effectively and he was proceeding to New Caledonia on a voyage that could take up to a week.
Bernfeld, who is sailing around the world, had been in Fiji
for more than a year repairing Troutbridge after it was severely damaged on a reef.
A week ago he reported on his blog that his departure had been delayed while he fitted an electric bilge pump
after his two manual pumps had failed.
The New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre said although no official search had been launched for Troutbridge there were serious concerns after its companion yacht Calypso reported it had lost contact.
"It's a great outcome to establish contact with the skipper
of the Troutbridge," search coordinator Mike Roberts said.
"Now we're also hoping for a positive result in the search for the fishermen off Kiribati."
The three fishermen on board a six-metre vessel are three days overdue and the NZRCC said an initial radar
search of the seas south of Kiribati's Tarawa Island had found no sign of them.
"The aircraft has now landed on Tarawa Island and the search will resume at first light tomorrow," it said.
In September, a 41-year-old Kiribati man was found alive after drifting for 15 weeks and surviving on fish