Satellite search the only hope to trace trio on missing catamaran

2015-03-03 00:00

THE families of three sailors with whom they have had no contact for nearly two months hope to launch a ­satellite search for the missing catamaran they were sailing.

The luxury boat, skippered by former Cowies Hill resident Anthony Murray (58), and with Royal Natal Yacht Club stalwart Reginald Robertson (59) and first-time sailor Jaryd Payne (20) from Cape Town also on board, has been out of communication since January 18. The boat’s last known position was about 2 010 nautical miles off the Australian west coast.

The trio were delivering the high-end South African-built Leopard Catamaran, only known as Sunsail RC044-978, to Phuket, Thailand, and were expected to arrive on February 2. They were reported overdue to the Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC) by Murray’s family on February 12.

Matthew Thomas, now assisting the family, said the area they may need to search is 400 000 square nautical miles.

“If their craft was disabled but not in an emergency, we need to decide where they would go. Anthony is ­experienced and delivering boats is his livelihood, so he may well have ­continued to Phuket. We also need to consider if something catastrophic may have happened, and whether they are drifting. Fortunately catamarans are not known to sink,” said Thomas.

He said while there is little information available, they knew that there “are two experienced yachtsmen aboard”.

“If they felt it not necessary to activate the EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio), then there may not be an emergency. At this point it is a wait and see game.”

His correspondence with the ­Australian Maritime Safety Authority yesterday revealed that in order to search the area concerned, an estimated 183 flights using 732 search hours would be necessary.

Thomas helped locate the missing Moquini yacht which went missing in 2005 during the Mauritius-to-Durban yacht race. All six crew were presumed dead. The hull was found six months later near the Transkei.

Durban resident Philippa Savage, ­sister of Murray, said after not hearing anything for several weeks, the affected families decided to “get the media ­involved”.

“It is a complete emotional roller-coaster. We believe a satellite search would help and needed to raise funds to do so, otherwise it is almost impossible to find them,” she said.

Savage said her concern is that the EPIRB, a modern SOS device only used in an absolute emergency, had not been activated.

“We haven’t discussed that they may be deceased, but it is going through our minds. The discussion is that they are bobbing along very slowly. We want ­everyone’s help.”

The crew, who left Cape Town in ­December, last communicated on ­January 18.

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