Sailor on sole watch missing off Sydney's northern beaches

Yacht being towed back to port after skipper goes overboard
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The search by rescue authorities for a yachtie missing off Sydney's northern beaches since yesterday (Sunday) has now been suspended. The sailor, who was not wearing a life jacket, was on sole watch while his wife was asleep below decks. When she woke up she found her husband missing and raised the alarm.

The couple had left Sydney in their 36ft Benetau fibreglass yacht about 10.30am on Sunday bound for Pittwater.

Helicopters were used in the search from first light this morning. While it is not exactly known when the sailor fell overboard, his wife raised the alarm off Narrabeen around lunchtime yesterday. The yacht had left Sydney in the morning, and the woman reported that she had seen her husband last about 45 minutes before she raised the alarm.

Water Police, Marine Rescue and lifesavers used 10 boats and helicopters in their search, which had to be stopped once the light failed. Police have towed the yacht to Careel Bay, near Avalon, with the distressed woman still aboard. A rescue helicopter spokesman said the woman’s distressed state and an apparently foreign accent, possibly European, had made it difficult to communicate with her.

It was Stephen Leahy from Westpac Rescue Helicopters who said the search was scaled down overnight but was continued this morning.

'Police will have emergency services searching an area probably from North Head all the way up to about Avalon and then probably about 5 to 8 kilometres offshore looking for the missing man,' he said early this morning.

'Water conditions are good, visibility is good and seas are very slight, so hopefully we should have a good result today.'

However cold conditions and the possibility of hypothermia would have been a danger to the sailor, and the search was called off over 24 hours after he was reported missing.