Desperate search for two sailors who were shipwrecked near Tonga after high seas delayed rescue efforts

UPDATED JUNE 19, 12:46: A 16-strong search party has landed on an uninhabited volcanic island to search for two yachtsmen who have been missing since Thursday (14 June). The rescue team are equipped to stay overnight and expect to stay on the island for a couple of days, according to ABC News.

Engish-born Ian Thompson and Australian Erwin Claus raised the alarm when they used a satellite phone to call a relative in Victoria, Australia saying that their 50ft Bavaria yacht, Navillius, had run aground and was breaking up.

Shortly afterwards the emergency locator beacon was activated near the Tongan island of Late. A search party reached the yacht on Friday but they found no trace of the two men. The hull of the boat, lifejackets and an undeployed liferaft were found on the vessel.

One of the men has been named as British/Australian national Ian Thompson who was on his way from the Caribbean to Queensland to begin “a gentleman’s retirement”.

Friends have told The Adelaide Advertiser that he was a “cautious” seaman with years of experience as a ship’s captain and marine pilot and that the yacht was well equipped to deal with emergencies.

A spokesperson for the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in New Zealand told the Telegraph that they had conducted a thorough aerial search of the area and waters around Late but that 3m swells were preventing them from getting on to the island to see if the men made it ashore.

“Conditions were good for searching and our search crews are confident they would have seen the men if they had been in the water,” said a spokesman, Tracy Brickles.

Image courtesy of Yachting Monthly.