Irish man and French woman rescued from yacht off Australian coast

Nick Dwyer said "we were looking death in the eye" during the ordeal

Irish man and French woman rescued from yacht off Australian coast

Marine Area Command - NSW Police Force

An Irish man and French woman have been rescued after their yacht's rudder broke, leaving them stranded in the rough Tasman Sea.

The pair were sailing from New Zealand to Australia when the rudder broke on Saturday, followed by the 20ft yacht capsizing several times before they activated an emergency beacon on Tuesday.

They were about 230 miles east of Sydney.

Nick Dwyer, 55, said he and partner Barbara Heftman, 44, had talked about the possibility that they might not survive their ordeal.

"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," he told Australia's Nine Network.

But after the emergency beacon was activated, Australian authorities sped to the rescue, bringing the couple onto their boat and delivering them to Sydney Harbour on Wednesday night.

Mr Dwyer praised the rescuers, saying: "They put their own lives at risk and if it wasn't for them, we probably wouldn't be here and they are the heroes, you know."

But they had to abandon their yacht, which has been their home for seven years of sailing around the world.

Sergeant Paul Farquharson of New South Wales Police told the ABC that the conditions were "pretty testing" for the rescuers, adding: "It was around five to six metre seas with two and a half metres wind chop on top, with around 40 knots of wind".

He described the sailors as "very, very experienced", adding: "They had their heads switched on, they knew exactly what they were doing at all times so there were no issues with that whatsoever".

Describing the ordeal, Mr Dwyer said: "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.

"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 added.

"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."