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Nilaya seller in dark over Antarctic bid

15:29 Wed Feb 1 2012

The former owner of the yacht Nilaya - now heading towards Antarctica on a rogue expedition - says he never really knew who bought the boat or what they would do with it.

Self-styled "Wild Viking" Norwegian adventurers Jarle Andhoy, 34, and Samuel Massie, 19, are aboard the 16.5-metre steel yacht, making for the Ross Sea to investigate the disappearance of their former vessel, the Berserk II, which sank in Antarctica with the loss of three lives during a massive storm last year.

The Nilaya left Auckland last month in such a hurry a New Zealander working on the yacht was discovered aboard after it had sailed.

The yacht's former owner, Auckland's Doug Easton, told NZ Newswire he sold the yacht in early December and he never really knew who was buying it.

Buyers did not necessarily disclose what they were going to do with their boats, he said.

He was unwilling to comment at length on the expedition or whether the Nilaya was suitable for it.

The Nilaya was last seen last week, heading south, nearly 100km east of the North Island.

The crew refused to respond to radio contact from Customs New Zealand and the yacht has not been seen since.

Customs believes it may have been rechristened Berserk IV.

Mr Andhoy spoke to Norwegian newspaper Vestfold Blad, via satellite phone, at the weekend, saying they were well prepared and things were going well, with all crew - except the stowaway New Zealander - experienced in sailing in ice.

He said the ship was now Russian-registered and the skipper was also a Russian.

There were no plans to turn around and they would review the situation when they got to Victoria Land, on the western side of the Ross Sea, in Antarctica. They expected to make it in about a week.