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Royal New Zealand Air Force recognised in Search and Rescue awards

The Royal New Zealand Air Force's No. 40 Squadron has received a Search and Rescue Award for their assistance in the rescue of a solo sailor in severe sea conditions.

22 May, 2024

This week’s 2023 New Zealand Search and Rescue Awards ceremony celebrated outstanding achievements within New Zealand’s search and rescue region, with two Gold Awards and 10 Certificates of achievements awarded by Matt Doocey, Associate Minister for Transport.

The Squadron, along with crew from merchant vessels Amaltal Apollo and Moana Chief, received a Certificate of Achievement – Operational Activity, for the rescue of a sailor after his 10-metre yacht Astra rolled and lost its mast 50 nautical miles east of Cape Kidnappers in March 2023.

The sailor had been swept overboard but had managed to swim back to the yacht and activate his distress beacon.

The sea conditions in the area were severe, with 60-knot southerly winds and seven-metre swells. A helicopter rescue was impossible in those weather conditions, so the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand began looking for nearby vessels who could assist.

Two vessels, the 42-metre Amaltal Apollo and 175-metre Moana Chief, arrived on scene the following morning, but poor visibility meant they lost sight of the yacht.

image001 Astra Courtesy Hanna Marshall Swire Shipping image002 v2

Seen from the C-130 Hercules, Amaltal Apollo used a line thrower rocket to send a line over the yacht.

A C-130 Hercules from No. 40 Squadron arrived on scene and was able to locate the yacht. The aircraft stayed overhead to provide oversight and communications while the Moana Chief positioned upwind of the yacht to provide shelter.

The crew of Amaltal Apollo used a line thrower rocket to send a line over the yacht. The sailor entered the water and used the line to drag himself into a life ring which had been attached to the line. He was then dragged to the vessel and pulled to safety.

“The stories behind each award are humbling to read,” says New Zealand Search and Rescue Secretariat Director Duncan Ferner.

“Each recipient has demonstrated exceptional dedication to search and rescue. Their service and accomplishments are an inspiration to us all.”

Heading photo: NZSAR Awards 2023 in the Grand Hall, Parliament Buildings. From left, Associate Minister of Defence Chris Penk, SQNLDR Reece Fenton, SGT Emma Porritt, Associate Minister for Transport Matt Doocey. Photo copyright Mark Coote for NZSA.