Nick Dwyer and Barbara Heftman have been reunited with their yacht after abandoning it 210 nautical miles off Sydney, Australia after their rudder broke. See video of their rescue below

31 March

A yacht, abandoned in “treacherous conditions” off the Australian coast, has been recovered after drifting for more than three weeks.

Irish skipper Nick Dwyer, and his French partner, Barbara Heftman had to be rescue on 8 March 2017, after their rudderless yacht, Val, capsized and was knocked down twice.

The couple, who have been circumnavigating the globe for the past ten years, were on passage from New Zealand to Australia when the rudder of the yacht broke in heavy seas.

After days of battling waves “the size of buildings”, the couple activated their emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) about 210 nautical miles from Sydney.

They were rescued by New South Wales (NSW) Police, with the assistance of the crew of the container ship, ANL Elanora, and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

The couple, who thought they would not survive the ordeal, praised their rescuers as “heroes”.

The yacht, Val, was spotted on 28 March by a Sea Princess cruise ship off Gabo Island near Eden, which is on the far south coast of New South Wales.

ABC South West NSW reports that Dwyer hired a plane and flew to the area to locate the yacht. He then reported it to the New South Wales Police.

The police decided that as it was near busy shipping lanes, Val should be recovered.

The yacht is now docked at Eden’s Snug Cove, waiting to be cleared by Customs.

“This is like a Christmas present. We owe (the NSW Water Police) a lot. They’re such a professional bunch of guys,” Dwyer told ABC South West NSW.

“You’ve got a great country and I wish I’d emigrated here 30 years ago,” he added.

The couple plan to continue the second half of their circumnavigation, and will be sailing back to Europe shortly.


9 March 

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.

Video: Two luxury yachts sink after storm in Port d’Andratx, Mallorca

“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.