Police have called off the search for a missing yachtsman, whose vessel was discovered 145 kilometres off the coast of Lakes Entrance in eastern Victoria on Friday night.

The 62-year-old New South Wales man left Hobart on Friday, November 13, heading for Eden on the NSW coast.

After a week of sailing solo, the man came into strife in significant winds, in the darkness of night early Friday morning.

He made contact with the volunteer Marine Rescue Group, which monitors radio channels, about 2.00am to say his sails had been damaged in 75 km/h winds, rendering the vessel inoperable.

He told the volunteers he planned to wait until morning to pull the damaged sails down and put a new one up before making his way into Eden.

The officer in charge of Water Police in Victoria, Inspector Greg Barras, said a high-tech jet plane was dispatched by the Australian Maritime Search Authority in Canberra to search over rough seas.

“Sea conditions at the time were ‘sea state five’ and that’s waves of between 2.5 – four metres and that creates a really big challenge when you are looking for a small object in the water,” Inspector Barras said.

The man’s nine-metre yacht was spotted 81 nautical miles offshore at 8.00pm that night.

Container ship called to help

A police boat based at Paynesville was dispatched but it was a 22-hour return voyage from port to collect the yacht from so far offshore.

“Clearly from a fixed-wing it is very difficult to work out whether the person’s on board,” Inspector Barras said.

“We actually diverted a container ship to the location and the container ship tried to call him on radio and also sounded the horn and there was no presence on the boat.”

Inspector Barras said the water temperature was between 15-17 degrees Celsius at the time, and that in those conditions, the man would have only been able to survive for between 12-14 hours.

“By the time the searchers were able to get to him it was probably too late.”

Police are preparing a report for the Victorian Coroner.

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