NSW

Hope fading for missing Sydney sailor Malcolm Lennon swept off yacht in big waves

Hope is fading that a passionate sailor and well-known Sydney project manager will be found alive, after he was swept from a yacht in raging seas off Broughton Island during Wednesday's wild weather. 

Malcolm Lennon, 62, remains lost at sea, presumed dead. He had been at the helm of the 36-footer Amante in rough conditions while returning from competing in the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour yacht race.

Malcolm Lennon, who is still missing after being swept off the yacht Amante.
Malcolm Lennon, who is still missing after being swept off the yacht Amante. Photo: Supplied

Police confirmed that the search for Mr Lennon had become a recovery operation after two helicopters and marine rescue personnel scoured the area. He was last seen on Wednesday and again on Thursday without success.

It is believed Mr Lennon was not wearing a life jacket.

"Unfortunately, due to the sea conditions, we believe that this will be a recovery mission," said Superintendent Mark Hutchings of the Marine Area Command.

The search had been hampered by horrendous conditions, he said.

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"Sea conditions were up to six to eight metres with sometimes 50-knot gales.

 We believe that during the course of the day and the preceding hours, we did do 100 per cent coverage of the area we believed he was in.

"Due to the conditions and medical advice, we believe that he hasn't survived, unfortunately.

"What we understand, from talking to the crew at this point, is that he was at the helm when a large green wave came over the boat. And he was swept into the sea."

Mr Lennon is a well-known property manager from consultancy firm Cadence Australia and last year sold his family's iconic home on Sydney's north shore.

The property, Wanganui, in Longueville, is recognisable for its blue corner turret. That was originally built so the owners could be alerted to the arrival of guests, who came by boat in the days before roads. Mr Lennon and his sister sold the home for close to $6.5 million in May.

The alarm was raised for Mr Lennon about 11.45am on Wednesday, when those on board the the Amante made a distress call to report that one of their crew had been swept overboard by a large wave. 

After helping with the search for Mr Lennon, the Amante was towed to Nelson Bay Marina.

Police examined the yacht and spoke with members of Mr Lennon's crew on Thursday morning. A detective could be seen filming a man as he appeared to walk them through the events leading up to the incident. 

The mayday for the Amante was among half a dozen calls for help off the coast of Port Stephens during the huge seas and strong winds on Wednesday. 

The crew of the drifting M3 had to abandon ship near Seal Rocks and swim to shore after the Port Stephens Volunteer Marine Rescue spent four hours trying to catch up with it. 

The volunteer rescue boat was then hit by an eight-metre wave that knocked it over and cut one of its engine on what was an extremely difficult day for rescue crews. 

The M3, which was returning from finishing second in the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour race, had also required rescue help earlier in the day after a sailor spent seven hours stuck up a mast, police said.

The crew helped him without marine rescue assistance, but later called for help again as they were being swept towards rocks.

Mr O'Donnell, the Port Stephens Marine Rescue Unit commander, said the M3 vessel couldn't steer, had lost its engines and had its sails blown out.

The crew of the M3 all managed to get to shore safely. It was unclear how far they had to swim to get onto dry land.

Organisers of the race, The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, said thoughts were with Mr Lennon's family and friends and the crew involved in the incident.