Hobart: A yacht sailing in the Sydney to Hobart race witnessed a light plane crashing into the ocean, prompting a search by several boats for the plane and its pilot and passenger.
The single-engine plane was filming the boats when it crashed yesterday evening, prompting a "mayday, mayday ... we've a plane in the water," radio call from the yacht Mistraal as it rounded the Tasman Peninsula bound for the finish line.
Crew on board the boat saw the plane go down and its tail disappear beneath the waves.
Seven race yachts diverted to help the search. Police said today an oil slick was found in the area but there was no sign of the aircraft or the two people aboard.
"An ocean race is of secondary importance to the safety of people and at the moment, we are all thinking of those affected by this event," John Cameron, commodore of the organising Cruising Yacht Club of Australia said today.
Wild Oats XI won a record eighth line honours title in the annual race on Sunday, with American super maxi Comanche finishing second, about 45 minutes behind.
Veteran owner and skipper Roger Hickman's 43-foot boat Wild Rose was today declared official handicap winner, which takes into account the size of the yacht and its finishing time.