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Tonga: Cruising couple rescued after surviving a knock-down and being stranded for two days in 50mph winds

By — last modified Nov 09, 2012 01:03 PM
Injured couple have been plucked from their crippled vessel after it capsized in a Pacific storm.

Published: 2012-11-09 00:00:00
Countries: New Zealand , Tonga

Stephen Jones, 52, originally from Llandudno Junction in Wales, and Tania Davies, 43, had clung on for two days in ferocious conditions waiting for rescue to arrive.

The pair were plucked from their damaged 38ft yacht Windigo this morning by the Hong Kong based cargo ship Chengtu, which was directed to the scene by rescue services in New Zealand.

Their location about 430 miles southwest of Tonga had earlier been pinpointed by a New Zealand air force P3-Orion spotter plane, which also dropped them an emergency life raft in case the yacht sank.

They raised the alarm on Wednesday, setting off a distress beacon after the Windigo rolled over while battling 50mph winds and 30ft-high waves. The yacht managed to right itself but took on water after hatches and portholes smashed, and it was listing heavily.

Mr Jones suffered an injured head and back during the capsize and Ms Davies also knocked her head.

Although fearing the battered Windigo could sink at any time, the couple secured themselves in the yacht's stern while continued rough weather delayed any prospect of rescue. Conditions finally abated enough to allow the Chengtu alongside.

Keith Allen, mission coordinator for New Zealand's Search and Rescue service, said: "They were thrown heaving lines, big thick ropes, and then winched aboard the Chengtu. They were very tired and obviously had been pretty scared. It was extremely uncomfortable on the yacht."

A New Zealand naval vessel, HMNZS Otago, was heading for a rendezvous with the Chengtu to take the couple to Auckland, where Ms Davies has family.

Mr Jones, an experienced yachtsman who has been sailing for over 25 years, had been making for New Zealand from Tonga when the storm struck.

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