Double tragedy on board 65-footer Platino as a well-known boatbuilder is killed and another crew member swept overboard


One crewmember has died and another was swept overboard when the Auckland-registered yacht Platino suffered serious rigging damage around 550km north of New Zealand on June 14.

Platino, a 20m Ron Holland design, had been entered in the cruising division of the ANZ Sail Fiji, a 1,110nm offshore race from Auckland to Fiji, but withdrew before the start.

The crewmember killed on board was Nick Saull, who ran prominent Auckland boatbuilding company Brin Wilson Boat Builders, which had refitted Platino following previous fire damage. It was reported by the Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand that Saull was fatally injured when the boom broke loose and was swinging out of control in a severe sea state. Wind conditions at the time were around 40 knots.

Another 63-year-old man was swept overboard, and has not been named. He is not thought to have been wearing a survival suit at the time of the incident. The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) have been searching the area.

The three surviving crew, yacht owners Brent and Tory McKeogh and Ross McKee, were rescued around 14 hours after the incident by the container ship Southern Lily.  Initial attempts by a fishing vessel in the area to reach the the survivors proved unsuccessful and the three remained onboard. However, Platino’s condition deteriorated further overnight with the loss of steering, and the yacht began to take water onboard.

Platino suffered rigging damage approx 350 miles north of Auckland ©New Zealand Defence Force

©New Zealand Defence Force

Following a difficult transfer that required the crew of Southern Lily to use pyrotechnics to fire lines to Platino before bringing her alongside, the McKeoghs and McKee were able to climb aboard the container ship, although conditions made it unsafe to recover Mr Saull’s body from Platino. An EPIRB had been activated on the abandoned yacht to track its location.

The Rescue Coordination Centre NZ (RCCNZ) mission coordinator John Dickson praised the master and crew of the Southern Lily for the rescue yesterday, saying: “It was not easy to get the three crew members from the yacht to the much larger ship in those sea conditions – they’ve done a tremendous job.”

“We are obviously disappointed that it was not safe to transfer the body of the deceased crew member, but safety must come first. We will keep track of the position of the yacht.

“The search for the missing person has now resumed and will continue until around nightfall when the aircraft must return to New Zealand.”

Tributes to Nick Saull were posted by many in the Auckland sporting community, where he was a keen sailor, lifeguard and rugby player.