June 25, 2015

PAPEETE, Tahiti (AP) Leading Swiss yachtsman Laurent Bourgnon was reported missing by authorities in French Polynesia on Thursday after a diving incident.

The Papeete rescue center in Tahiti said the 49-year-old Bourgnon, who twice won the Route du Rhum trans-Atlantic sailing race, was diving on his own. Crew members and passengers of the boat alerted emergency services on Wednesday when he did not return.

Marie Baville, the cabinet director for the head of Polynesia's governing council, told The Associated Press that Bourgnon organized the trip with tourists on his boat, which was anchored in the Toau atoll, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Tahiti in the Tuamotu Archipelago, when the incident happened.

''This is not a particularly dangerous area,'' Baville said.

She added that the search for Bourgnon, which involved a helicopter, was called off at night and was set to start again early Thursday.

Bourgnon, whose brother Yvan this week completed a sail around the world on a 20-foot (six-meter) boat without on-board accommodation, is one of the most accomplished sailors of his generation.

Yvan Bourgnon said he will join the research crew ''to look for my brother night and day, as long as there will be hope. Laurent is a fighter, I know he can hold out several days adrift in the open sea.''

After a cruise around the world with his parents in his teenage years, Laurent Bourgnon crossed the Atlantic for the first time in 1986, on a small Hobie Cat catamaran with his friend Fred Giraldi. He won the Solitaire du Figaro in his first attempt two years later.

Bourgnon secured a third-place finish at the Route du Rhum in 1990 before winning twice in a row in the race from Brittany to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe in 1994 and 1998.

Bourgnon also competed in car rallies, including the Dakar Rally several times in the early 2000s.

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