A further update:
This has lessons about both:
* navigation errors and/or inaccurate charts; and
* solo sailing by less experienced sailors.
How sailor took a wrong turn and scuppered his dream trip to the inlaws
by Bernard Lagan in Sydney and Marcus Leroux
A once-in-a-lifetime voyage ended for a lone British yachtsman when he was winched by helicopter from his stricken vessel hundreds of miles off the coast of Australia after it hit submerged coral.
Steve Landles, 55, was fulfilling a boyhood dream when he set out from London for Sydney in September aboard his 40ft (12m) yacht, Lamachan. But on Wednesday evening he struck the treacherous Elizabeth Reef, north of Lord Howe Island far off the eastern Australian coast. The reef has claimed at least 36 ships.
His boat was holed and stuck fast on the reef. He was able to radio a distress call to Australian maritime safety authorities who contacted a catamaran in the area. The catamaran stayed near the reef on Wednesday evening while Mr Landles remained on board his yacht, which was taking on water.
Early on Thursday Mr Landles twice tried to reach the catamaran, once by swimming and again by dinghy. He was beaten back by the seas on his first attempt and tossed from the dinghy on the second. He was able to return to his stricken yacht.
The Royal Australian Navy sent two helicopters on Thursday morning after dispatching two frigates, embarking on a 570 nautical mile (1,050km) mission from their base at Nowra, south of Sydney, across the Tasman Sea to rescue Mr Landles. There were fears that his boat would break up.
Mr Landles, an IT project manager from southwest London, had set sail on his adventure with his daughter Kirsty, who was on a gap year, and her boyfriend Andy Pengelly, a kitchen manager. By the time of the incident his crew had flown back to England from Nouméa.
In a yachting newsletter he wrote of the magnitude of his adventure: "It's an easily stated objective. Sail halfway round the world to Sydney, visit the mother-in-law and then sail back again, adding: "But the achievement needs a massive amount of planning and preparation. To make it harder, whilst I'd sailed dinghies many years ago and occasionally chartered cruisers since, I soon found out a lot had changed and I was close to the bottom of the learning curve."
One of Mr Landles's rescuers was a Sea King flown by a British pilot instructor, Lieutenant Steve Brown, from the Commando Helicopter Force, based at the Yeovilton Royal Naval Air Station, who is on a posting with the Royal Australian Navy.
Lieutenant Brown, speaking from Lord Howe Island, told The Times that Mr Landles had run aground after relying on a marine navigation chart that gave a false position for Elizabeth Reef. "He had two charts, one of which was accurate and the other which wasn't. Unfortunately he was relying on the chart that was wrong. He was very unlucky." Lieutenant Brown said that the British sailor was exhausted. "He is sleeping now. He is very, very tired. He's had a long couple of days."
Mr Landles told his rescuers that he had been heading for the city of Newcastle, north of Sydney when Lamachan hit the reef.
Mr Landles maintained an internet blog of his travels in which he told how his yacht had been invaded by large seabirds, and later, sea lions near the Galápagos islands.
“It feels like I am a chambermaid in Sea Lion Hotel. Sea lions are no longer welcome on this boat,” he wrote.
Moving into the South Pacific Ocean, he wrote: "That Captain Cook certainly got around. There aren't many places in the Pacific that we visited where he hadn't been first."
His blog also records his discovery that his charts did not accurately show at least one reef he encountered - Beveridge Reef, near Tonga.