'We were capsized and battered by waves the size of houses. We have looked death in the eye'
A Dubliner and French woman on a round the world voyage last night told how they prepared to die after their boat repeatedly capsized in raging seas between Australia and New Zealand.
Nick Dwyer (55) and Barbara Heftman (44) praised Australian police who plucked them from the sea after the rudder of their 40ft sailing boat broke in 20ft seas more than 370km east of Sydney.
Mr Dwyer said their yacht's rudder broke on Saturday en route to Sydney and heavy seas capsized them several times before he activated an emergency beacon on Tuesday and made radio contact with Australian rescue authorities.
He could not recall which day the yacht first capsized and its sail was torn off.
They then continued toward Sydney pulled by a drogue parachute on a 20m line, he said.
Mr Dwyer said he and Heftman had discussed the possibility that they would not survive.
"We were actually turned upside down and there was a moment where everything was held in suspension. We weren't at all sure whether the boat was going to turn upright or whether we were going to see a burst of water coming through the door into the aft cabin and that was the end of that," he told reporters.
"We were lucky enough that the boat did come back up and subsequently we got knocked over again several times and we just took a hell of a battering," he said.
"We encountered enormous seas, waves the size of buildings coming at you constantly, winds that you can't stand up in and seas breaking, whiteness everywhere," he said.
"Every wave that hit you, we're wondering: is this the one that's going to take you out? We weren't at all confident of coming through that and we were looking death in the eye, frankly," Mr Dwyer said.
The yacht has been their home for the past seven years as they sail around the world, and Dwyer said they did not yet know whether would attempt to retrieve and repair it.