Search underway for two - English and Australian - shipwrecked sailors

The Navillus is shipwrecked off the uninhabited island of Late
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A desperate search for two sailors, an Englishman and an Australian, is underway after their yacht the Navillus was wrecked on an island in the Pacific Ocean yesterday.

Navillus - earlier photo
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The wreckage of the yacht has been found, but no sign of the two sailors. The two men had earlier sent messages to family members, one of which is in Victoria, on a satellite phone telling them they were in trouble as their 50ft yacht had run aground on the Tongan island of Late and was breaking up in fierce seas.

Shortly afterward the telephone calls, their emergency locator beacon was activated.

Rescuers are hoping that the men, who are both in their 60s, had managed to scramble ashore on the deserted island, which is part of the Tonga group in the Pacific. Late Island is a small volcanic island. It is a 6-km-wide circular island, about 55 km WSW of the island of Vava'u, Tonga's main island.

The names of the yachtsman have not been released by authorities in Tonga, New Zealand and Australia, who are co-ordinating search and rescue efforts.

According to yachting records, the vessel has four cabins and was built in 2008. It was previously offered for hire form a Swedish charter company.

The two men boarded the Navillus in the Caribbean and were sailing it across the Pacific Ocean to Bundaberg in Queensland, Australia, when it ran into trouble.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion aircraft has reached the site and is helping in the search.

Search co-ordinator Geoff Lunt told Mailonline from New Zealand that the crew of two local fishing boats had reported finding wreckage floating near the smashed hull. 'They have located the hull of the vessel and seen a lot of debris,'said Mr Lunt. 'The yacht's dinghy has been found and an un-deployed liferaft, as well as a number of life jackets.'

Local officials said there were several potential landing points on the island close to where the hull was found and it was possible the Englishman and his companion had managed to scramble ashore and taken shelter.

A crew from one of the rescue boats had gone ashore, but darkness made searching for the men impossible and it was decided to continue the rescue operation at first light.

Asked what the survival time would be if the men were still in the water - and if they were wearing lifejackets - Mr Lunt said it would be at least 36 hours.

Update:

With no sign of the missing sailors in the water or on the landing site, search authorities are organising a group of locals to make a thorough search of the Island of Late, starting on Monday morning.