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

USCG Searches for Va. Couple Missing During Attempt to Sail to Portugal

The Coast Guard continues to search for two Virginia Beach natives who haven’t been heard from in nine days during their attempt to sail to the Azores in Portugal.

The pair, Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones, both 65, left Hampton, Va. on June 8 for the Azores. They were aboard the sailboat Kyklades. But on June 13, they told Jones’ daughter that heavy weather had damaged their vessel. They’d decided to head back to Hampton. But Jones’ daughter never heard from them again.

Yanni Nikopoulos (left) and Dale Jones were reported overdue after an attempt to sail to the Azore. Photo: USCG

At the time of the June 13 call, the boaters were about 460 miles east of Virginia Beach. Four days later, on June 17, Jones’ daughter reported the lack of communication to the Coast Guard, saying she was concerned for their well-being. She expected them around June 20, but no specific date had been established for their return.

The Coast Guard launched a search, trying to narrow down their possible location. HC-130 Hercules crews made two overflights of the approximate area where they could be. And USCG issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast to other boaters in the area.

“In situations like this, where there are so many unknowns, our coordination efforts need to cast a wide and intentional net,” said Chief Brian Gainey, command duty officer. “We’re tracking cell phone and radio pings as we work with our counterparts in Bermuda to accurately determine the most intelligent search area for our air crews. It’s a lot of detective work, but it’s all in service to finding these two individuals and bringing them home to their families.”

The Coast Guard asks for anyone with information to call 757-398-6390. They’re working with authorities in the Azores, Bermuda and Canada in the search for the two boaters.

“We have not received any signs of distress, however, we encourage the public to keep a sharp eye out for Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Pulliam, the Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator in the Fifth District Command Center.

-Meg Walburn Viviano