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US schooner missing near Australia

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — An American schooner sailing from New Zealand to Australia is missing with seven on board, more than three weeks after communication with the passengers ended June 4, searchers said Thursday. Attempts to contact the crew by radio and an aerial search this week have proved fruitless.

Authorities say the skipper of the 70-foot vessel Nina is David Dyche, an American. They say five other Americans and a British man are aboard.

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Kevin Banaghan, who is spearheading search efforts, said rescuers escalated their efforts this week. An air force plane on Tuesday searched the area where the boat went missing. A second search by the plane Wednesday went as far as the Australian coast.

The Nina was built at the noted Bigelow shipyard on Monument Beach in Bourne, Mass., in 1928 and won a race from New York to Spain that year, the first American yacht to take those honors.

A New Zealand meteorologist, Bob McDavitt took the last known message from the schooner: ‘‘The weather’s turned nasty, how do we get away from it?’’

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