The father of a teenager missing aboard the vintage schooner Nina says he is hopeful a message intercepted from the ship's satellite phone indicates the crew may have survived a severe storm in the Tasman Sea.
The six Americans and one Briton have not been heard from since June 4, when New Zealand meteorologist Bob McDavitt received a text message from them asking for weather updates.
Louisiana man Ricky Wright, whose 19-year-old daughter Danielle is on the Nina, believes the crew sent a further message after they encountered the bad weather.
Mr Wright says, based on the message, the schooner was still progressing at 4 knots/hr after the storm despite its damaged sails.
"SAILS SHREDDED LAST NIGHT, NOW BARE POLES” the message reads.
"GOINING 4KT 310DEG WILL UPDATE COURSE INFO @ 6PM [sic]."
The message was sent at 11:50am New Zealand time on June 4, but never reached its intended recipient.
The New Zealand Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCCNZ) says the message is the last known transmission from the Nina's satellite phone. RCCNZ obtained information about the time and location of the message of June 15, and has been factoring that position into its search planning since then.
However, the exact contents of the message were only obtained from satellite company Iridium yesterday after authorisation from the United States' State Department.
RCCNZ says the message gives a clearer indication of the vessel's condition and the weather it was experiencing at the time. But because there was a prolonged period of bad weather in the area for many hours, the text message does not indicate what might have happened subsequently.
"What is of concern…is that the message states that course information would be updated in just over six hours’ time, at 6pm," a spokeswoman says. "There have been no further transmissions or messages from the NINA since the undelivered text message on 04 June. There were also no distress messages from either of the two distress alerting devices on board (EPIRB or SPOT beacon)."
Mr Wright and his wife Robin say they still believe the Nina and crew are well.
"The EPIRB [emergency beacon] has not been set off, therefore I believe that all is well. Captain David [Dyche] would not set the EPIRB off without cause, nor would his wife or my daughter."
"If they were drifting, NZ search would have seen them."
The Nina left Opua in the Bay of Islands on May 29, bound for Newcastle in Australia. It was due to arrive on June 8 and authorities were alerted on June 14.
RCCNZ believes the vessel encountered wind gusts up to 110km/h and swells as high 8m.