England

Clipper race: Injured Briton thought she was drowning

  • 7 April 2012
  • From the section England

A British sailor, who was badly hurt during a round-the-world race, believed she would drown when an "enormous wave" crashed into the vessel.

Jane Hitchens, 50, from Kent, suffered a broken back and ribs, burst lung and a ruptured spleen during the storm in the Pacific Ocean.

Ms Hitchens and 29-year-old Nik Brbora from London had to be rescued by the US Coast Guard and taken to hospital.

She said: "I thought I was drowning... I didn't think I was going to come up."

The huge wave crashed into the yacht Geraldton Western Australia she was crewing during the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

'Remember screaming'

"I saw the most enormous wave, I can only describe it as like a big tongue of water," she added.

"It was quite narrow but very very tall... it was so big it tipped the boat on to its nose and then the wave broke all over the boat.

"I had a big metal bar behind my back and a big metal cage across my front; so yes I was pinned by the water, which was very scary. I remember thinking at the time I've broken my back, which as it turned out, I had."

Ms Hitchens, who was the onboard doctor, said: "I was underwater and I remember screaming, so I must at least have been breathing out... and as the wave retracted I was sucked out from the space I was squashed in and was rolled down towards the back of the boat.

"It was a big wave, but there were thousands of other big waves out there - that one just had our name on it."

She added: "I had quite a difficult night last night when I realised, not for the first time that actually... it could have been an awful lot worse."

Mr Brbora was taken to Highland General Hospital in Oakland, California, along with Ms Hitchens, with a suspected pelvic strain.

Mark Burkes, 47, from Worcestershire, sustained a back injury and Max Wilson, 62, from Queensland, Australia, had suspected broken ribs, but remained on board the vessel.

The crew were taking part in the biennial Clipper Round The World Yacht Race when the wave hit the boat in a storm on 31 March, sweeping away its steering wheel, mount and some of its communications equipment.

The rest of the 16-strong crew on the boat were said to be uninjured but shaken.

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