Helicopter Crew Rescues Stricken Sailor 120 Km Offshore

A lone sailor spent more than 10 torturous hours on remote Percy Island overnight watching his beloved boat being smashed by wild wind and waves.

RACQ CQ Rescue began a search and rescue mission at first light today for the 68-year-old sailor after he activated an EPIRB about 10 pm yesterday when his 12-metre sloop Banshee slammed into rocks at Pine Islet, about 120 km offshore from Mackay.


Sailor James Swan had been harbouring at Percy Island for two days doing some maintenance on his boat when he encountered serious trouble last night in bad weather. The boat’s mainsail tore and became entangled in the boat’s propeller and the waves then drove the vessel onto the rocks.

Mr Swan abandoned the stricken vessel and jumped ashore onto rocks and sheltered from the cold and driving rain in a rocky outcrop for about 10 hours before the RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter landed on a beach nearby this morning.

The 68-year-old, who left Sydney three years ago and has been circumnavigating the world in his vessel, said it was “torture” to watch his uninsured $100,000 sloop and his home for the last three years, being pummelled against the island rocks.

RACQ CQ Rescue departed base just after 6 am and was able to land on a sandy beach on the island after spotting the vessel on rocks from the air about 7 am. The crew clambered over rocks to reach the stricken sailor. He had a garbage bag of possessions he had salvaged from the wreckage including a jumper, his passport, car keys and reading glasses.

RACQ CQ Rescue crew members, which also included a rescue crewman and paramedic, said Mr Swan was shaken but uninjured and was incredibly grateful and relieved help had finally arrived.

As it was uninsured, the vessel is now the owner’s responsibility to salvage.

RACQ CQ Rescue returned to base with Mr Swan aboard about 8.20 am.