Kiwi yachtsman believed lost after extensive search

An 11m sloop, the Tafadzwa, was found adrift west of the Chatham Islands, about 400 miles east of Christchurch on New Zealand’s south island, on Sunday 28 March.  According to a New Zealand Press Association report in the New Zealand Herald, the yacht’s sails, though shredded, were still set and a dog was found onboard, but there was no sign of owner Paul Janse van Rensburg.

Mr Janse van Rensburg, a 40-year-old engineer, left Tauranga on March 12 for Gisborne, where he was due to begin a new job three days later. The last contact with him was a mobile phone call to his partner Kristin that same day. His yacht, discovered 16 days later and hundreds of miles off course, still had all its safety equipment onboard.

The Tafadzwa was spotted during a training flight for a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion and a nearby fishing boat was tasked to investigate. They found the yacht and Mr Janse van Rensburg’s dog Juanita but reported her skipper as missing.

After two days of air and sea searches, no sign was found of Mr Janse van Rensburg and the search and rescue services were stood down. Rescue Co-ordination Centre search and rescue mission co-ordinator Geoff Lunt said ‘Unfortunately it seems Paul has fallen overboard. It appears his life raft, dinghy, emergency beacon and kayak were all still on board the yacht.’

Inspection of the boat’s GPS leads the rescue services to believe that he was washed overboard while crossing the Bay of Plenty, on North Island, on the same day he left. A friend, Warwick Gowland said ‘We have managed to pin it down to about an hour and a half when it happened.’ Mr Gowland believes his friend was reefing the main in deteriorating weather when the accident happened.

Photo credits
Tafadzwa: NZ Defence Force
Paul Janse van Rensburg: 3news