Yanni Nikopoulos (left) and Dale Jones reported they are safe 60 miles off Chincoteague, after a USCG search. Coast Guard photo,

Va. Sailors Safe after Lightning Strike on Failed Voyage to Azores

Two days after the Coast Guard launched a search for a sailboat missing hundreds of miles off Virginia Beach, the boat and the two sailors aboard have been found safe.

Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones were attempting to sail from Hampton, Va. to the Azores, Portugal when rough weather and boat damage forced them to turn back. The pair was about 460 miles offshore at that point aboard the sailboat Kyklades. They were reported overdue after Jones’ daughter didn’t hear from her for several days.

Those concerns prompted the Coast Guard to make two overflights with Hercules aircraft and to issue an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast so other boaters could be on the lookout.

This sailboat, Kyklades, was reportedly struck by lightning at sea. Its crew are safely on their way home. Photo: USCG

Two days later, Nikopoulos and Jones got in touch with the Coast Guard with good news: they were safe, and sailing about 80 miles east of Chincoteague. The pair reported they had been struck by lightning after sailing through bad weather. After rigging a spare sail, the pair sailed to Virginia.

By Friday afternoon, Nikopoulos and Jones were en route to Hampton. The Coast Guard says the two were not in distress and didn’t need the Coast Guard’s assistance.

“We are extremely happy to learn Yanni and Dale are found and are safe,” said James Cifers, operations unit watchstander in the Fifth District Command Center. “It is truly wonderful the pair will be reunited with their friends and family soon.”

The families of the missing sailors opted to keep the reunion quiet. The Coast Guard’s public information office advised, “To maintain the privacy of the boaters and their families we will not be releasing the date, time, or exact location of the vessel’s arrival.”

-Meg Walburn Viviano