UK

Atlantic Odyssey rowers rescued after capsizing

  • 31 January 2012
  • From the section UK
(l-r) Matt Craughwell, Aodhan Kelly, Simon Brown, Yaacov Mutnikas, Ian Rowe, and Mark Beaumont
Image caption The crew of the Sara G were rescued from a life raft after more than 14 hours

Six rowers have been rescued after their boat capsized in the Atlantic Ocean during a record attempt.

The crew of the Sara G - five British men and one from the Irish Republic - are safe, organisers say.

The crew had been trying to row from Morocco to Barbados in under 30 days, and were 27 days into their journey when the 36ft (11m) vessel overturned.

The Atlantic Odyssey website says the men were picked up from a life raft by a Panamanian-flagged cargo ship.

It named the team as: Father-of-four Ian Rowe, 45, from Bedford; Aodhan Kelly, 26, from Dublin; Simon Brown, 37, a father-of-three from Wiltshire; father-of-two Yaacov Mutnikas; Mark Beaumont, 29, an adventurer from Perthshire, and skipper Matt Craughwell.

Speaking from the rescue ship Mr Craughwell said the team were "completely relieved" to all be safe and well.

'Traumatic experience'

He said everything happened very quickly after their rowing boat was hit by two waves at the stern.

"As the wave moved through it rotated the boat through 110 degrees," he said.

"She instantaneously started taking on water and the boat was capsized within about 10 seconds".

Mr Craughwell said after they made it out of the boat they spent 15 minutes battling to get the life raft out and secured to the boat.

He said: "Frightened is a word I wouldn't use, it was fight-or-flight response from everybody. It happened so quickly.

"One of the rowers was in the upturned boat for about 15 seconds because we couldn't remove his feet from the harnesses. It was quite a relief when she capsized and we called the names and everybody responded."

He said attempts to recover the boat proved futile and they spent the first three to four hours in the life raft they just recovered from what had happened before deciding to go back to the rowing boat and setting off another rescue beacon.

"The time went incredibly slowly, it was a traumatic experience," he said.

Satellite phone

Coastguards in Falmouth, Cornwall, helped co-ordinate the team's rescue some 500 miles (800 km) from their destination.

Terry Collins, the Duty Watch Manager said they tried every method they could to contact the rowing vessel after receiving a distress signal, but were unable to get through to them.

He said: "We found the two nearest vessels and, when I say near, one was 10 hours away the other eight to nine hours away.

"Both vessels were contacted and responded immediately then at 0100 hours this morning the Nord Taipei found the life raft with all six in safe and well".

Mr Collins said the crew of the cargo ship did a "magnificent job" of rescuing the men in very poor weather conditions.

He said: "They were in the life raft from 11am through to 1am the following morning. It's an awful long time to be in an uncomfortable position like that and very frightening.

"The one bright light on that was halfway through the incident the shore contact managed to speak to them, just for a matter of seconds, to say rescue was on the way, before the satellite phone went dead".

The six rescued men are expected to be taken to Gibraltar, where they are due to arrive on 9 February.

Simon Brown's mother Janet said it was a real shame they were not able to complete the challenge.

She said: "I think they will be totally gutted that it's happened, that it's ended like this, because they were you know really on for the record.

"They were really up for it, they were going well and I didn't expect it to end like this but I'm glad that they're safe."

The Sara G is the latest boat to get into trouble during a transatlantic rowing challenge this winter.

In December, British rower Tom Fancett and Tom Sauer, who has dual Dutch and Russian nationality, were rescued by a merchant ship after 10 hours floating in a life raft.

Their small boat sank in rough seas some 500 miles south-west of the Canary Islands as they attempted to reach the Bahamas during the Atlantic Ocean Rowing Race.

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