Wales

Stephen Jones's Pacific Ocean yacht off Tonga 'hit by storm'

The mother of a Welsh sailor at the centre of a rescue operation in the Pacific Ocean says his yacht overturned in a storm.

Stephen Jones, 52, from Llandudno Junction, is on board the yacht Windigo with his partner Tanya Davies, 43.

His mother Elizabeth said the pair, who both had head injuries, originally feared the vessel was going to sink.

It rolled over in high winds 700km (435 miles) south west of Tonga and 1,260km (783 miles) from New Zealand.

The yacht has righted itself and both are still on board.

Rescue agencies in New Zealand received an emergency message from the yacht on Wednesday.

Aircraft from New Zealand and the French navy spotted the yacht and have been in radio contact with the pair.

Vessels are trying to reach it but a rescue operation will not take place until first light on Friday at the earliest.

Mr Jones's mother has spoken to the New Zealand coastguard and says her son and Ms Davies, from New Zealand, are hoping to ride the storm out while they wait to be rescued.

"They were in touch with the coastguards and they kept ringing each other backwards and forwards so since then they've been looking for them," she said.

"They didn't find them until last night [Wednesday] but they can't go near them because of the weather."

She said a large swell had overturned the boat during a storm.

"It's gone back up again but it has taken water on board as well," she said.

"The first thing we heard was they were expecting it to go down and they had locked themselves in a cabin.

"They're both injured because they've been thrown. The storm is 75km an hour with the wind, and the waves are 10m high so they're in the middle of that.

"They've been in distress for nearly two days now."

She was told about the incident by her son-in-law Dave Lloyd early on Wednesday morning.

Mr Jones, an experienced yachtsman who has been sailing for over 25 years, and Ms Davies, whose parents are from south Wales, were travelling from Tonga to New Zealand.

He has been based in Australia for many years but has been living on the yacht for about two-and-a-half years.

Mr Lloyd said he felt more confident now that the pair would be safely rescued.

"The plan is at first light, or at the safest earliest opportunity, they're going to try to transfer them to another yacht," he said.

"A big tanker is due to arrive there soon and will be used as a barrier to stop the swell and assist if required.

"There's a New Zealand navy vessel en route and they will be transferred straight away to this ship for treatment."

Search and rescue mission co-ordinator Keith Allen said sea conditions were becoming less severe but remained rough.

"It will be extremely uncomfortable and the people aboard are tired, but the yacht is still afloat so the correct approach is to remain onboard," he said.

Image caption The Windigo had rolled over in winds of 75km/h (46mph)

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