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Crew missing from ghost yacht

May 4, 2007
 
 
Hopes are fading for the safety of the three-man crew of the Australian 9.8meter catamaran Daz 11, found on the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef, 80 miles northeast of Townsville, adrift and abandoned.

On board, the GPS and a laptop computer were found running; the cabin table was laid for a meal; the radio was working; men´s clothes were neatly folded on the aft deck and a fishing line was in the water.

The only signs of anything amiss were a large rent in the headsail and a deep reef in the mainsail. Of the crew – skipper Des Batten, 56, and the brothers Peter and James Tunstead, 69 and 63, all from Western Australia - there was no trace.

A three-day search and rescue operation covering 700 square miles of ocean failed to find a single clue as to their disappearance. The families of the men have since spent thousands of dollars on continuing the search, but to no avail.

The men, all experienced yachtsmen, had set out three days earlier, on 15 April, from Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays on a passage to Perth round Australia´s “top end” that was expected to take two months. Winds were steady at 15 - 20 knots all that week, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

The vessel was towed to Townsville where exhaustive forensic tests were made, but without result. Police say they do not suspect foul play. Conjecture surrounds the mystery.