Skipper missing, non-sailor rescued mid-Pacific, updated

Approximate position of last sighting
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Update: The search has been called off. The only thing as horrifying as watching your boat sail away from you because you weren't clipped on could be realising your skipper has gone overboard and you, who can't sail at all, are left in the middle of an ocean alone.

This is what happened this week to a British woman, Laura Vernon, non-sailor, on a 12 metre (38ft) sailing boat Jonetsu on a voyage across the Pacific Ocean.


The non-sailor discovered by rescuers - photo by Reuters
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It has been reported that the US Coast Guard in Hawaii has rescued the woman, described as 'having little sailing experience' and the US Navy search continues for the lost yachtsman, Luke Stimson, who lives in Japan, also British and from Shropshire. Stimson works as the Asian director of the international florist David Austin Roses.

The firm said in a statement to the press: 'We are a very close company and all know Luke well, so it is a very worrying time.

'Our thoughts are with his family and we are hoping against hope that he will be found soon. He is a truly remarkable person and a much-valued employee.

'He's an energetic, resourceful, passionate person with a hands-on approach ... He is also a very kind person and it says a lot about his character that he called his 38ft yacht Jonetsu which means 'passion for life'.'

According to Laura Vernon, reportedly his girlfriend, the 35-year-old missing sailor was conscious and wearing a yellow life jacket when he went overboard about 430nm west of the Midway Atoll on Sunday, but he had not been found more than 48 hours later, Coast Guard petty officer Eric J Chandler told Associated Press.

The first distress signal was sent to Falmouth in Britain. Officials from the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre based at Falmouth in Britain reported to the US Coast Guard at 11.30pm on Saturday that one sailor had fallen overboard and the crew who remained on board had little sailing experience.

The area nearly 1700nm from Oahu was too remote to reach quickly by boat and winds were reported at 20-25kts with six-foot (two-metre) seas.

'It's really challenging out there,' Chandler said. 'We can't get our cutters out there.'

A Hercules aircraft, an amphibious assault ship as well as two navy helicopters are involved in the search and rescue operation. The US Coastguard has two crews working shifts so that they can keep up the maximum hours of search.