Durban skipper sails out of harm

2012-04-17 00:00

A LONG-RANGE maritime spotter plane found the missing South African yacht, the Dandelion, off the Mozambican coast yesterday morning.

Major Quentin Oates, spokesperson for the European Union’s navy task force for Somalia (Eunavfor), said a Luxembourg aircraft that is part of the task force took off from the Seychelles early yesterday morning to search for the yacht.

Oates said the aircraft made radio contact with the Dandelion about 20 sea miles from Pemba. “Everyone on board was unharmed. They apparently experienced problems on the open sea,” he said.

A relieved Roger Hartley, co-owner of the Dandelion, said the crew apparently encountered problems with the two outboard motors as well as bad weather at sea.

Besides this, a whole series of problems apparently cropped up on board with equipment and the communications systems.

The yacht’s departure from Mayotte had been delayed earlier because of problems with the two motors, but they were sorted out, Hartley said.

The yacht had two South Africans (skipper John Sergel and Frank Joubert), a French woman (co-skipper Isabelle Moallic), an American woman (Gianvieve Mancuso), a Briton (Jason Morenikeji), a German (Alex Weyhe) and a Dutchman (Jasper van Straaten) on board. It sailed from Mayotte in the Indian Ocean on Tuesday, headed for Pemba in northern Mozambique. Sergel and Moallic’s last radio contact with the harbour authorities in Dzaoudzi in Mayotte took place at 6 pm on Tuesday.

The yacht was due to arrive in Pemba two days later.

A joint search effort started yesterday with the Eunavfor aircraft’s flight and would have been extended if that search had been unsuccessful.

Fears that the yacht could have fallen prey to pirates were strengthened owing to a pirate attack in the Quirimba Peninsula near Pemba last week.

A number of pirates attacked a ship that supplies oil rigs in the area, but were repelled by the guards on board.

Informed sources said yesterday that the group on their crippled yacht were fortunate not to have fallen prey to pirates.

By late yesterday afternoon the yacht was making its way to Pemba without engine power. It was expected there late last night.

Gail Dickerson of the Royal Natal Yacht Club in Durban said yesterday that Sergel, who is deaf and mute and in his fifties, is one of South Africa’s most experienced yachtsmen.

He has crossed the oceans several times in a variety of races, a few of which he has also won.

“If there is anyone who knows how to overcome a crisis at sea it is John. Everyone at the club is very relieved that they are safe,” she said.

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