Polish sailor coaxed into leaving stricken yacht in Pacific

WELLINGTON: A Polish round-the-world yachtsman had to be convinced of the "gravity of the situation" before he agreed to be rescued from his stricken craft in a remote part of Pacific Ocean Sunday, New Zealand authorities said.

A Polish speaker was taken on a four-hour flight from New Zealand to persuade him to abandon his craft.

The sailor, identified by local media as 64-year-old Gregor Wegrzyn, had activated an emergency beacon on Thursday after the steering failed on his 10.6m yacht Reginar R.

He was located by a New Zealand Air Force search aircraft 2,700km east of New Zealand and a cargo vessel was diverted to pick him up.

But when the ship Key Opus arrived on Saturday the man was reluctant to leave, New Zealand search and rescue coordinator Dave Wilson said.

The air force plane, with the Polish speaker onboard, had to return to the yacht and drop a radio to the sailor on Sunday to establish communication and convince him to abandon his yacht.

"The man spoke little English, a hurdle we had to overcome for this operation," Wilson said.

"Once the Polish speaker, who was known to the man, made radio contact with him, he was able to convince him of the gravity of the situation and he agreed to leave his boat.

"The fact it took two full days of sailing for the Key Opus to reach the man's position underscores the remoteness of this rescue."

Weather conditions in the area were rough throughout the operation with 25-knot winds and a three-metre swell.

The Key Opus, with the sailor on board, is expected to arrive at its next port of call in Chile on May 4. — AFP