The couple abandoned their yacht in "treacherous conditions" 210 nautical miles off Sydney, Australia after their rudder broke

The skipper of a 40-foot yacht has described his rescuers as “heroes” after he and his crew were left battling waves “the size of buildings” without a rudder.

Irishman Nick Dwyer and Barbara Heftman, who is from France, said there were times when they didn’t think they would survive their ordeal.

The couple were on passage between New Zealand and Australia when the yacht’s rudder broke around 210 nautical miles off Sydney.

The yacht, Val, is reported to have capsized several times before the crew activated their emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB).

The yacht was at the mercy of the sea after its rudder broke

Credit: AMSA

In a media release, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said it had been in contact with the vessel since 4 March 2017, after the skipper informed the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre of a broken rudder.

Speaking to ITV, Dwyer said they owed everything to the emergency services.

“We are here because they came to our assistance. They put their own lives at risk and if it wasn’t for them we probably wouldn’t be here and they are the heroes, you know,” he said.

“We encountered enormous seas, waves the size of buildings coming at you constantly, winds that you can’t stand up in and seas breaking, whiteness everywhere, a beautiful glory of terror facing you and your boat turns upside down,” continued the sailor.

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“What happened is a low developed and a bad weather system started coming up from the south, and we knew this was coming but it just got deeper and deeper, and lower and lower, and darker.”

“And the skies and the wind got bigger, and it got to a stage where there were, you know, small buildings just throwing us about, the waves were massive,” added Dwyer.

AMSA said the skipper activated the EPIRB at 1500 on 7 March 2016.

Rescue 660, one of AMSA’s dedicated search and rescue Challenger 604 jets, was tasked to drop additional communications equipment to the yacht.

Unfortunately, due to the treacherous conditions, Dwyer and Heftman were unable to recover the equipment.

While Rescue 660 remained on scene to relay communications, AMSA issued a broadcast to shipping in the area requesting assistance which was answered by
the container ship, ANL Elanora.

AMSA also requested the assistance of the New South Wales (NSW) Police, which launched their Nemesis vessel at 1900 on 7 March 2017.

“In six-metre swells and gale-force southerly winds, the Nemesis reached the yacht at 8.30am this morning (Wednesday 8 March 2017). Both the man and the woman were successfully transferred to the Nemesis with the assistance of the ANL Elanora and are reported to be uninjured,” said AMSA in a media release.

The Nemesis then returned to Sydney.