Australian yachtsman rescued after 16 hours stranded at sea

Australian was thrown into water after huge wave rolled yacht over and snapped its mast

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 October, 2012, 5:23am

An Australian yachtsman was yesterday reunited with his family following a dramatic rescue after a massive wave picked up his boat and rolled it over, hundreds of kilometres off the coast.

Glenn Ey, 44, from the Gold Coast, Queensland, spent 16 hours drifting in the Tasman Sea before being spotted by an Air Canada passenger plane, which swooped down low to search for him after being diverted by Australian authorities en route to Sydney from Vancouver.

"A monstrous wave just came up … rolled the boat over [and] I went smashing into the roof," Ey, who was sailing solo from Sydney to New Zealand, told the Seven Network.

"It's extraordinary. The noise is like an explosion. You are upside down, smashing around inside the boat, it is filling up with water," he said. "You do think your number is up."

With a mast snapped into three pieces and no fuel, Ey began drifting in a remote area of the ocean, prompting him to activate his emergency beacon.

The pilot of the Air Canada Boeing 777, Captain Andrew Robertson, said they descended as low as 1,524 metres so the crew could scour the ocean with binoculars. "I had already made a PA announcement telling passengers what we were doing," said Robertson. "And as we got into the area, I said, 'We're coming into the search area, please everybody look out of the window and if you see anything, let us know.'"

As the passenger plane banked right, the first officer spotted the yacht some 270 nautical miles off the Sydney coast and alerted authorities who sent a rescue boat, which recovered Ey on Wednesday.

Detective Inspector Anthony Brazzill from the Marine Area Command said Ey was "very lucky to be alive".

Ey's yacht is still drifting at sea, however, he said he was in no hurry to get back on the ocean. "I would be quite happy to sit under a tree for a while," he said.