Rescue crews are searching for a solo sailor who triggered a distress signal in rough waters off Victoria's far east coast.

The yachtsman set sail for New Zealand on an around-the-world journey from the Mornington Peninsula last Sunday but was caught in rough conditions, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) says.

The sailor activated an emergency distress beacon about 220 kilometres south of Mallacoota in the early hours of Friday.

The AMSA says a navy ship and a search plane are heading to the area, after a commercial jet stationed nearby failed to spot the sailor.

Rescuers haven't been able to contact the yachtsman.

However, AMSA believes he spoke with his family before activating the beacon.

HMAS Melbourne has been deployed to the search, as strong winds and rough seas are hindering the efforts of smaller vessels, the AMSA said in a statement.