The missing Platino sailor has also been named as Stephen (Steve) Forno, 63-years-old from Devonport, New Zealand

The New Zealand police have confirmed that the tug boat Sea Pelican is now towing the stricken yacht Platino back to Auckland.

The tug, which left Whangarei late on Tuesday night to undertake the mission, reached the yacht around 8.35am this morning, north of New Zealand.

Auckland City District Police Operations Manager Inspector Vaughn Graham said that around 1pm the Sea Pelican began towing the 65ft yacht back to Auckland.

He said: ‘The yacht appears to be in a reasonable condition. At this stage we can’t say what the expected arrival time back to New Zealand will be as it’s all weather dependent.

‘Formal identification is yet to take place however police believe the body of the man recovered and on board Platino is that of Nick Saull.

‘We also believe the man reported missing overboard is that of Stephen (Steve) Forno, 63-years-old from Devonport.’

Mr Graham said police are now investigating the circumstances of Mr Saull’s death on behalf of the Coroner.

He added: ‘This is obviously a very difficult time for the families of both men and they have asked that media respect their privacy at this difficult time.

‘No further information is available at this time.’

The Platino and the Southern Lily. Image courtesy- New Zealand Defence Force

The Platino and the Southern Lily. Image courtesy- New Zealand Defence Force

Double tragedy

The 20m yacht Platino got into difficulties in winds gusting 40 knots and large swells, some 550km north of New Zealand on Monday morning.

One crewmember – now named as Steve Forno – was knocked overboard, while Nick Saull, who ran Auckland boatbuilding company Brin Wilson Boat Builders, was killed.

Three survivors – two men and a woman named as owners Tory and Brent McKeogh, and Ross McKee – were rescued on Tuesday by the container ship Southern Lily which diverted to assist.

Mrs McKeogh released a statement on behalf of the group via the captain of the container ship’s email, saying ‘this was a terrible tragedy of nature’.

Mr Saull’s body was left on the abandoned yacht, as he could not be safely transferred in the difficult conditions with three metre swells. An EPIRB beacon was activated on the yacht, which was taking on water, to aid in tracking its location.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand had previously issued a notice to ships travelling through the area to be on the lookout for the sailor lost overboard and the Royal New Zealand Air Force carried out an extensive search.

Mr Forno, aged 63, was not wearing a lifejacket.

The search was suspended on Wednesday.

The Singapore-flagged Southern Lily, carrying the three Platino survivors, arrived in Auckland on Wednesday night.

Inspector Graham added: ‘We’re in communication with their families and supporting them.’