Missing Lancaster man’s boat sent text message

Matt Wootton
Matt Wootton
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An American schooner missing in the South Pacific with seven people aboard, including a man from Lancaster, sent an undelivered text message a month ago saying its sails were shredded and it was travelling at four knots.

Briton Matt Wootton, 35, was travelling on board the 70-foot (21m) schooner named Nina with six Americans.

New Zealand’s Rescue Coordination Centre released the last-known message from the Nina on Thursday after seeking it from satellite phone company Iridium and the US State Department.

The June 4 message with a misspelling read: “Thanks storm sails shredded last night, now bare poles. Goining 4kt 310deg will update course info @ 6PM”.

Authorities believe the Nina probably sank in a storm that day but have continued an aerial search, hoping that survivors may have made it into a life raft the boat was carrying or to land.

The 85-year-old classic wooden sailing boat had left New Zealand six days earlier bound for Australia.

But the father of an 18-year-old woman on the missing schooner believes the message indicates the boat is afloat and will reach Australia in the next few days.

Ricky Wright of Lafayette, Louisiana, said the text indicated the yacht which his daughter Danielle is aboard is likely to be in an area away from where rescue services are concentrating their search.

Mr Wright told US news website KATC: “My prediction is they are making three knots and the storm pushed them north of where they thought they would be.

“The main search area was south of where they are.”

Nigel Clifford, Maritime New Zealand’s general manager of safety and response services, said the message had indicated the Nina would update its position about six hours later, which it never did.

“While it shows that Nina had survived the storm up to that point, very poor weather continued in the area for many hours and has been followed by other storms,” Mr Clifford said in a statement.

Authorities didn’t state why the text message went undelivered or who it was sent to. Maritime New Zealand said it would review its search options again overnight.