Rowers rescued from Atlantic after boat capsizes

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Media captionThis video shows the rowers setting off from Gran Canaria on 26 January

Four British rowers trying to cross the Atlantic have been rescued after their boat capsized and they lost their oars.

The crew sent a distress signal on Saturday morning, when they were 400 nautical miles from Cape Verde, off the west coast of Africa.

They were rescued by a commercial vessel on its way to Canada about 16 hours after becoming stranded.

The UK coastguard, which had sent a mayday broadcast to shipping, said the women were "reported to be well".

The rowers, Gemma Chalk, 33, Clare Lanyon, 45, Jane McIntosh, 36, and Olivia Wilson, 27, set off from Gran Canaria on 26 January, aiming to reach Barbados - nearly 3,000 miles away - within 45 days.

The coastguard said the women had capsized several times and lost equipment including the GPS and oars "leaving them with no way of navigating or manoeuvring".

"They were requested to activate their Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon to assist the coastguard in tracking them," it added.

Image copyright Oceanus Rowing
Image caption Jane McIntosh, Olivia Wilson, Clare Lanyon and Gemma Chalk before setting off
Image copyright Oceanus Rowing
Image caption The rowers were about 400 nautical miles off Cape Verde when they hit difficulties

The rowers' support crew member on land, Paul Williams, told the BBC: "The boat went broadside and rolled fully 360.

"We had some breakages on board. We lost the steering. We lost a couple of oars, the GPS navigation system and most importantly from their point of view, the AIS, which is a system that tells them when there any ships in the area."

In light of this, the "wise course of action" was to abandon the crossing attempt, he said.

'Quickly diverted'

The coastguard duty controller, Ian Guy, said: "The rowers were an extremely long way from land with no other vessels in the immediate vicinity. We received several responses to our mayday request, the nearest vessel being 90 nautical miles away.

"They quickly diverted and set course to the stricken rowers. This shows you how important it is to be prepared for your voyage and have several means of contacting the coastguard or raising an alarm, even if you are not in UK waters."

Image copyright Leonie Carroll
Image caption Clare Lanyon's daughter Leonie Carroll said she was "relieved"

Ms Chalk, who is based in Staffordshire, works at the company that organised the crossing attempt and is married to Simon Chalk, an ocean rower who crossed the Indian Ocean solo in 2003.

Ms Lanyon, from Saltash, is a receptionist and keen rower. The other crew members, Ms McIntosh, from Martley, Worcestershire, and Ms Wilson, from Anglesey, both serve in the armed forces.

Her daughter, Leonie Carroll, 17, said the family were "relieved" she was safe.

"She'll be annoyed that she hasn't done it but glad that she's been out there and had the chance to be able to try," she said.

"She was extremely determined to get to the other side and break the world record."

Image copyright Oceanus Rowing
Image caption Olivia Wilson preparing for departure
Image copyright Oceanus Rowing

Last month, four other British women became the youngest and fastest all-female crew of four to row across the Atlantic.

Gee Purdy, 23, Bella Collins, 23, Lauren Morton, 26, and Olivia Bolesworth, 27, completed the 3,000 nautical mile journey in 40 days.

They survived a hurricane, 50ft (15m) waves and intense bouts of sea sickness to win a place in the record books.

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