Americans Vanish at Sea: New Zealand Officials Concerned for Nina Crew

Thursday, 27 Jun 2013 04:47 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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New Zealand officials expressed "grave concern" Thursday over a historic American sailboat and its crew that had not been heard from in more than three weeks, CNN reported.

Six Americans and one British man set sail on the Nina on May 29 from northern New Zealand, said a Maritime New Zealand news release. The sailboat was heading toward Newcastle, Australia.

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The Associated Press said the crew had reported bad weather and asked a meteorologist how to avoid it, but the last communication was a text message on June 4.

The news release stated after families and friends of the crew became concerned, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand tried to reach the sailboat by a communication search beginning June 14. The sailboat left for its trip with a satellite phone.

Kevin Banaghan said the center followed up with two air searches, according to the news release. Banaghan said that a search of 160,000 square nautical miles northeast of New Zealand did not locate the sailboat on Tuesday.

He said a larger search of 324,000 square nautical miles between northern New Zealand and the Australian coast also returned no good news.

"Unfortunately, no sign of the vessel has been found," Banaghan commented in the statement. "Our records show that conditions at the last known position for the vessel, on 4 June, were very rough, with winds of 80 kilometers per hour (or 50 mph), gusting to 110 kilometers per hour (or 70 mph), and swells of up to eight meters (or 26 feet). We do hold grave concern for the Nina and her crew but remain hopeful of a positive outcome."

The BBC reported Banaghan saying that the sailboat could have lost communications and drifted off course, the crew could have taken to lifeboats or the boat could have sunk before anyone had time to react. He told the BBC that the crew had expected to arrive in Australia by Tuesday.

The Nina is a wooden schooner built in 1928, said CNN.

New Zealand authorities said in the Maritime news release that the sailboat was equipped with a spot device which allows regular tracking signals to be sent manually, and an emergency beacon along with the satellite phone.

Banaghan said the emergency beacon has not been activated as of Thursday.

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