HUNTER police have been saluted for their efforts in rescuing a crew caught in large swell and strong currents with an underpowered engine.
Port Stephens Water Police's Sergeant Tony Hogg, Senior Constable Matthew Gray and Senior Constable Nicholas Leach have won praise through the 2021 National Search and Rescue Awards.
The three officers received a commendation in the professional search and rescue category for their work with the Solar Coaster, an 11.5-metre yacht that got into trouble near Lord Howe Island.
Police were called in after the yacht made a distress call on November 9 last year while 100 nautical miles west of Lord Howe Island.
Its mast had broken, leaving the crew caught in dangerous conditions.
Officers monitored the yacht for 48 hours before fatigue and shortages of both food and water made it clear that its crew would not reach the mainland alone.
As a result, they conducted one of the NSW Police Marine Command's longest ever non-stop tows, covering more than 400 nautical miles in seas up to five metres and with winds blowing over 40 knots.
The operation took 54 hours.
Sergeant Hogg said it was one of the most challenging rescues of his career.
"The sea conditions were very ordinary to say the least, we were getting continually battered on our starboard side for about 50 of the 54 hours we were at sea, but the professionalism and training of my team allowed for a successful outcome," Sgt Hogg said.
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"Being an officer attached to the Marine Area Command has provided me with some challenging and truly unique experiences, which I would otherwise never have had the opportunity to be involved in.
"The satisfaction you get out of a rescue of this nature is very hard to explain, but we are extremely grateful we were able to successfully rescue these three men and reunite them with their families," Sgt Hogg said.
The rescue effort was dubbed an "exemplary example".
"The officers from Port Stephens Marine Area Command conducted this operation in extreme conditions and saved the lives of three men," Mark Morrow from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's National Search and Rescue Council Secretariat said.
"All three crew performed their duties as police officers and mariners with extreme professionalism and courage under adverse ocean conditions and I consider them to be an exemplary example of outstanding contribution to search and rescue in Australia."
Marine Area Command Chief Inspector Joe McNulty said the professionalism on show had been exceptional.
"The Port Stephens rescue took 54 hours to complete, with a police crew surviving on minimal rest and sleep. Their professionalism, resilience and personal endurance were truly remarkable," he said.
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