2 rescued from capsized yacht in heavy seas off Australia

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SYDNEY (AP) — An Irishman and French woman have been rescued off Australia's southeastern coast after their yacht's rudder broke in raging seas between Australia and New Zealand in the midst of the couple's around the globe voyage.

Nick Dwyer, 55, and Barbara Heftman, 44, said Thursday they thought they would not survive the repeated capsizing of their 12-meter (40-foot) sailing boat before an Australian police boat rescued them Wednesday in 6-meter (20-foot) seas more than 370 kilometers (230 miles) east of Sydney.

They landed on Sydney Harbor on Wednesday night and police provided them with beds.

Dwyer said their yacht's rudder broke on Saturday on route to Sydney and heavy seas capsized them several times before he activated an emergency beacon on Tuesday and made radio contact with Australian rescue authorities.

He could not recall which day the yacht first capsized and its sail was torn off. They then continued toward Sydney pulled by a drogue parachute on a 20-meter (65-foot) line, he said.

Dwyer said he and Heftman had discussed the possibility that they would not survive.

"We were actually turned upside down and there was a moment where everything was held in suspension. We weren't at all sure whether the boat was going to turn upright or whether we were going to see a burst of water coming through the door into the aft cabin and that was the end of that," Dwyer told Nine Network television.

"We were lucky enough that the boat did come back up and subsequently we got knocked over again several times and we just took a hell of a battering," he said.

"We encountered enormous seas, waves the size of buildings coming at you constantly, winds that you can't stand up in and seas breaking, whiteness everywhere," he said.

The couple said they would not have survived if the police boat has not rescued them.

"Every wave that hit you, we're wondering: is this the one that's going to take you out? We weren't at all confident of coming through that and we were looking death in the eye, frankly," Dwyer said.

The yacht has been their home for the past seven years as they sail around the world, and Dwyer said they did not yet know whether would attempt to retrieve and repair it.

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