Police hold “serious concerns” for a solo yachtsman who was last seen in Hobart almost two months ago when he set sail for New Zealand.
- Peter Baggenstos was last seen leaving port in Hobart on December 1, en route to New Zealand
- Tasmania Police has taken over the investigation into his disappearance, and says inquiries are continuing
- Mr Baggenstos had a close call in 2019 off South Australia in large swells
Swiss sailor Peter Baggenstos, 80, left Hobart on December 1 on board his 13-metre yacht Lady Lay.
The yacht’s automatic identification system (AIS) transponder stopped transmitting on December 5, in the Tasman Sea, about 140km off Tasmania’s east coast. Tasmania Police said it understood the weather at the time was “poor”.
Mr. Baggenstos’s family in Switzerland reported the situation to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which police said conducted a “large scale” search in the Tasman Sea.
Neither Mr Baggenstos nor his yacht have been found.
New Zealand authorities said they had no record of Mr. Baggenstos entering the country or its waters.
“Given the circumstances, we have serious concerns for Mr. Baggenstos’s welfare,” Sergeant John Delpero, from Tasmania Police’s missing persons unit, said.
Sergeant Delpero said Tasmania Police was notified of the situation on January 11 and assumed management of the investigation “which, to date, has included inquiries with AMSA, interstate and overseas law enforcement agencies, and Mr. Baggenstos’s family through Interpol.”
He said inquiries were continuing, and Tasmania police had requested a detailed report of the weather and conditions at the time Mr. Baggenstos’s transponder stopped transmitting, bank records, and further information from Mr. Baggenstos’s family.
“I would absolutely expect and understand that [his family] would be under a lot of stress at the moment, they would understandably have a lot of questions,” Sergeant Delpero said.
“They deserve answers and what we’ll aim to do as part of the investigation is to bring them some answers.”
170,000 square miles searched
Sergeant Delpero said the marine searches done by AMSA covered about 170,000 square nautical miles in the Tasman Sea.
“Our marine and rescue services are liaising with AMSA. From there, my assumption would be that they will make a determination on what, if any, further searches can be conducted.”
He said Tasmania Police had also been in contact with New Zealand police, other Australian police forces and health organizations, such as hospitals, for any record they may have of Mr. Baggenstos.
Mr. Baggenstos has been described as a “very experienced” sailor and in good health.
He has previously sailed around the world solo.
Sergeant Delpero said the yacht was fitted with safety equipment including life belts, a life raft, a global positioning system (GPS) unit, an emergency beacon (EPIRB) and the AIS transponder.
In 2019, Mr. Baggenstos had a close call when his yacht rolled over in the Great Australian Bight during huge swells while he was completing his second trip around the world.
At that time, he lost all electronics, battery and engine power and limped into Port Lincoln nine days later under limited sail with a broken boom.
After arriving in Port Lincoln he told the ABC he had been caught in 55-knot winds and waves more than six meters high, when an “extraordinarily big wave knocked the boat down”.
When he went from the saloon to the cockpit to see what had happened, he said another big wave came.
“It was one or two meters of blue water and white water and I saw it coming over the boat, and I was holding on to the steering and just holding on and kneeling down and I had to let the water go through me and over me and over the boat for almost one minute … some cruel waves were coming with teeth open and mouth open and trying to get me again but I was lucky — just got wet,” he said at the time.
He also said he hoped to keep sailing around the world over the next four years, until he was at least 80.
Investigation into Baggenstos’s movements in Hobart
Sergeant Delpero said the police were still piecing together what Mr. Baggenstos was doing while in Hobart.
“Peter flew from Switzerland to Australia in September 2022 and then took up his yacht again, the Lady Lay, sometime thereafter and on the 1st of December is when he set sail from Hobart after obtaining clearance from the Australian Border Force,” he said.
“Peter spent some time in Hobart between September and the first of December … there’s still some gaps with regard to exactly where he was staying and what he was doing while in Hobart.
“We’re hopeful that family back in Switzerland will be able to answer those questions for us, but if anybody has any information with regard to Peter [while he was] in Hobart and indeed his disappearance, we would urge you to make contact with us.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or at crimestopperstas.com.au