THE DAILY Examiner's coverage of the stolen yacht washed up on Wooli Beach has helped a French sailor identify the man he believes stole his $200,000 boat nearly three years ago.
The owner, who wants to be known as Mr B in Australia because of ongoing negotiations over who owns the boat and is responsible for its removal from the beach, learned of his Grand Soleil 37, christened Nirvelli's beaching at Wooli via The Daily Examiner website.
Reading the stories on the website and by doing further research over the internet, he has been able to track his boat's passage from the Mediterranean to the Pacific Ocean via the Panama Canal.
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And all the while his yacht, worth up to $200,000 and reported stolen to maritime authorities and Interpol, was photographed and filmed with the posts often appearing on television and social media.
Through his research Mr B believes he has identified the man who stole his boat as a 35-year-old from the French Mediterranean seaside port of La Seyne-sur-Mer, where he last moored his yacht in August 2013.
Mr B said he tracked down his boat's story from the date it was stolen from a number of sources.
"Notably through a local Australian newspaper, The Daily Examiner, which published no fewer than three articles," he said. "It gave me multiple paths to follow.
"Most incredibly, I discovered from reading the articles, the presence of a French person presenting himself as the owner of the boat.
"How is this possible? My sailboat was recognised as a stolen boat on international insurance files.
"And her name was not even changed. I do not understand and as I did more research the thread of the story unravelled."
Mr B was was amazed to learn how many times the authorities and media dealt with his boat, but never recognised it as a stolen vessel.
In March 2015 the New Zealand navy rescued a man claiming to be the Nirvelli's owner from the path of Cyclone Pam as it stormed through the Pacific Ocean near Noumea.
Mr B said there was even film shot of the rescue of the yachtsman from his vessel to the navy vessel, which found its way onto New Zealand television.
"There was not just vision of the man, but an interview with a TVNZ journalist," Mr B said.
"Here I am suddenly face to face with the man on my boat and his name was printed on the screen.
"From there the story took shape. He appeared on several sites including Facebook, with his name and other people.
"I was able to learn he was a 35-year-old Frenchman born in the Toulon region who lived and worked in La Seyne-sur Mer."
Mr B said he felt guilty about hiding his identity, but said he had little choice.
He said to get an acceptable insurance payout he was forced to waive the transfer of property to the insurance company.
"Because officially I still own the boat, Australian authorities could charge me a fee for recovering my boat," he said.
In May the Nirvelli was broken up and its remains carted away for landfill.
Mr B said he will continue to attempt to bring the man who stole his yacht and sailed her to the South Pacific to justice.
"My boat preceded me to this dream destination, she arrived before me in New Caledonia, with a man other than me at her helm.
"Personally I see no acceptable explanation, that is not reprehensible, for this to happen."
French sailing journalist Delphine Fleury supplied The Daily Examiner with an English translation of her story to appear in the sailing magazine Voiles & Voiliers.
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