Air Canada flight helps rescue Australian sailor

Crew from the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf rescue two injured crew members from their stricken racing yacht off the California coast, in this U.S. Coast Guard handout photo made available to Reuters on April 1, 2012. REUTERS/U.S. Coast Guard/Handout

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A lucky sailor is back on dry land after passengers and crew on a commercial flight from Canada helped find his crippled yacht adrift in rough seas hundreds of miles off the Australian coast, rescue authorities said.

The Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Sydney was one of two diverted on Wednesday to look for solo yachtsman Glenn Ey, who activated an emergency beacon after his 11-metre (36 foot) yacht flipped and was dismasted.

The Boeing 777 dropped down to 5,000 feet and cut its speed while the crew peered out using binoculars borrowed from passengers.

“As we got to about two to three miles of this yacht, the first officer said ‘there it is, I see it’,” Andrew Robertson, the captain of the Air Canada flight told Australian television.

“A lot of passengers said it was very exciting to be involved in a search like this.”

After a second Air New Zealand flight confirmed the location, a rescue crew battled heavy seas and strong winds to reach Ey, who had drifted some 270 nautical miles (500 km) from the Australian coast.

“It is an adventure he will certainly remember,” Detective Inspector Anthony Brazzill from Marine Area Command told Australian Associated Press.

“Sea and weather conditions were challenging and had been drifting further and further out to sea. He can consider himself very lucky to be alive.” (Reporting by Lincoln Feast in SYDNEY and Maggie Lue Yueyang in CANBERRA; Editing by Paul Tait)