Missing boat ‘sighted’

2015-05-26 09:55
This image was taken last week Thursday from a passing ship and is believed to be the Sunsail catamaran that went missing in January with three South Africans aboard.

This image was taken last week Thursday from a passing ship and is believed to be the Sunsail catamaran that went missing in January with three South Africans aboard. (Supplied)

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A CATAMARAN with three South Africans on board that disappeared deep in the Indian Ocean five months ago may have been sighted.

An upturned catamaran was spotted about 600 nautical miles off the coast of Madagascar last Thursday, at least 1 000 miles (1 600 km) off course from where the last communication was made between the sailors and the outside world.

And while this may renew desperate hope among the affected families that the sailors may be found, yachting experts believe it could still be months, if not years, until the craft is eventually salvaged, if it is not destroyed by ships as it floats through a busy shipping lane.

Anthony Murray and Reg Robertson — both with Durban roots — and Capetonian Jaryd Payne, who was on his maiden voyage, were last heard from via satellite phone on January 18.

Based on the yacht’s co-ordinates at the time, they were in international waters around 2 190 miles north-northwest of Perth, Australia and expected to arrive in Indonesia on February 2 to deliver the catamaran to its new owner.

Matthew Thomas, who was involved in the search and eventual salvage of the Moquini, which went missing in 2005, and is now advising the families during this ordeal, said while the latest development offers further closure, the eventual salvaging of the craft is still debatable.

“It is technically flotsam and it is in the vicinity of a busy shipping area. Hopefully within the next 48 hours a vessel will see it and plant a radar reflector on it. It will then become an issue of salvaging,” he said.

Thomas said in the usual case of salvage it becomes the property of the person who tows the vessel.

“The problem here is right now the catamaran is valued at about R500 000. The only salvageable part of it will be the body, as all the electronics would have been damaged so there is no real value in salvaging the vessel,” he said.

Thomas said the photos taken by the ship that spotted the vessel reveal that the likelihood of it being the Sunsail were “about 98%”.

Storme Robertson, Reginald’s daughter and group spokesperson, said yesterday that they were “distressed” by the sighting.

“As of this moment, we do not have 100% confirmation that this is our yacht, but the experts who have been advising us believe it to be so.

“Naturally this is extremely difficult for the families to handle, but we are now making every effort to relocate the stricken yacht,” Robertson said on Facebook.

The craft was spotted by a passing vessel, but has subsequently not been seen by two other ships passing through the region.

“We have so far not had any communication from the boat owners on this, but we continue to appeal to them [about a salvage operation],” said Robertson.

Tui Marine, which contracted the sailors to deliver the craft to its new owner, were unable to respond at the time of going to press.

Jared Blows, spokesperson for the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC), said they called off their search on May 15

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