"Winds that you can't stand up in, seas breaking, whiteness everywhere", the couple have described their terror and praised rescuers as "absolute heroes".

An Irishman and French woman have been rescued from their 40ft yacht some 210 nautical miles (NM) off the coast of Sydney after getting into difficulty in high winds and heavy swell.

In a joint operation between the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and NSW Police, the couple were successfully rescued from the yacht, which had a broken rudder.

AMSA has been in regular contact with the yacht since Saturday, 4 March, after they informed the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) of the breakage.

The experienced sailors had been travelling from New Zealand to Australia.

About 3pm on Tuesday, 7 March, the yacht, affected by high winds and heavy swell, activated its EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon).

Rescue 660, one of AMSA’s dedicated search and rescue Challenger 604 jets, was tasked to drop additional communications equipment to the yacht.

The equipment was dropped successfully by Rescue 660 however the equipment was unable to be recovered by the yacht due to the treacherous conditions. Rescue 660 remained on scene to relay communications from the yacht to AMSA.

AMSA issued a broadcast to shipping in the area requesting assistance which was answered by the container ship ANL Elanora.

AMSA also requested NSW Police assistance and the NSW Police Nemesis vessel was launched at 7pm on Tuesday night, with seven officers from the Marine Area Command aboard.

In six metre swells and gale-force southerly winds, the Nemesis travelled 200NM to reach the yacht at 8.30am yesterday morning, Wednesday 8 March.

The pair, who have been named as Irishman Nick Dwyer and Frenchwoman Barbara Heftman, were successfully transferred to the Nemesis with the assistance of the ANL Elanora and are reported to be uninjured.

Mr Dwyer praised their rescuers as ‘absolute heroes’ and, in a video interview, he described the terror of the conditions: ‘Winds that you can’t stand up in, seas breaking, whiteness everywhere.’

He said at one point after the yacht had turned upside down, he and Barbara were holding each other, and wondering ‘for a split second that seemed to last an eternity, is she going to turn up right? and she did.’

Mr Dwyer added: ‘To go out in those seas and experience that is truly humbling. I really think that the crew of the Nemesis who went out there, knowing what they were going into, who went to look after some complete strangers, really are absolute heroes.

‘And there’s enormous gratitude felt and indebtedness, by Barbara and I for the courage that has been shown.’

The Nemesis is now returning to Sydney and was expected to arrive at 8.30pm last night.

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