Update: 11:00AM THREE people were plucked to safety from a liferaft after abandoning their stricken yacht north of New Zealand in a dramatic rescue today.
The 11-metre yacht Django II was on a return trip from Fiji and 170 nautical miles north of North Cape when Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) was alerted this morning that it had issued a mayday call, picked up by Maritime Radio.
The yacht's rudder was becoming detached, putting the vessel in danger of sinking, Maritime NZ said.
The crew of two men and one woman were ready to abandon ship.
RCCNZ tasked two vessels in the area, the log carrier Laura Bulker which was en route from Tauranga to China and 60 nautical miles from the stricken yacht, and the Royal New Zealand Navy patrol vessel HMNZS Otago, which was 90 nautical miles away.
The Otago arrived alongside Django II at about 5.30pm, with the Laura Bulker on scene shortly after and standing by while the naval vessel carried out the rescue.
The Django's II crew abandoned ship into a liferaft, but as it was being hauled across to the Otago they feared the larger vessel was about to roll over and crush them in the heavy seas, and they cut the rope.
The Otago then sent a swimmer into the water with another rope, to tie the liferaft on again and bring it alongside.
The crew are now safely on board the Otago, which is en route to Devonport in Auckland and expected to arrive this morning.
RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator Neville Blakemore praised the Otago and Laura Bulker for their prompt response to the request for help, and the skilfull rescue in difficult conditions.
The yacht and liferaft were still afloat when the vessels departed the area, and a navigation warning has been issued to advise mariners of its position.