Mini sailor abandons boat

New Zealand's leading Mini sailor rescued mid-Tasman by Taiwanese trawler

Wednesday May 22nd 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Australasia
Kiwi Mini sailor Chris Sayer was forced to abandon his 6.5 Mini night before last when the swing keel fell off.

His yacht, Up The Blue, hit a submerged object and it is this which is believed to have caused the canting keel to fall through the bottom of the boat.

Sayer, who finished an impressive third in the 1999 Mini Transat was rescued by a Taiwanese fishing boat after he was plucked from his liferaft 500km west of Cape Reinga about 0300 yesterday morning.

Sayer's father, Richard, said today Chris managed to keep the boat upright and sailing for a short time before it capsized and he took to his life raft. In the Mini Transat before last French yacht designer David Raison had managed to sail his boat back to port when his keel fell off.

Sayer activated his emergency locator beacon and a searching air force Orion aircraft found the liferaft at 7pm yesterday. Mr Sayer fired a distress flare and operated his strobe light. The Orion remained overhead while rescue vessels arrived and Sayer was taken aboard the Taiwanese fishing boat.

Richard Sayer said he hoped his son could transfer to a ship heading back to New Zealand. He did not know the name or the destination of the Taiwanese boat.

Chris Sayer built the uninsured high-tech kevlar and carbon-fibre yacht himself, spending at least NZ$70,000 on it.

He told Australian authorities he had lost his keel at 10am local time on Monday but radio contact was lost when the yacht capsized and sank, probably yesterday afternoon. He had attempted to make for Cape Rienga when the boat capsized.

When he was rescued, his life raft was being buffeted by 40 knot winds and 3m swells and attempts by the Orion to drop a radio were abandoned because it was too dark.

He was returning to Auckland from Sydney after he and friend, Jonathan Gravit, had withdrawn from the Trans-Tasman double-handed yacht race last month with a broken mast.

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