Royal Navy warship rescues stranded yacht crew in Atlantic

image copyrightRoyal Navy
image captionThe Atlantic swell caused problems for the rescue crew

A Royal Navy warship has rescued 14 sailors who were stranded for two days in the Atlantic Ocean after their racing yacht was damaged in a storm.

HMS Dragon diverted 500 miles to reach the 13 Britons and one American after the mast and rudder had broken off their 60ft (18m) yacht on Thursday.

The Clyde Challenger had been en route to the UK from the Azores after a four-month trip when it was damaged.

The navy's Type 45 Destroyer rescued the crew at 14:30 GMT on Saturday.

The Clyde Challenger was 610 miles south-west of Land's End when HMS Dragon arrived on Saturday.

'Desperate state'

Chemical tanker CPO Finland, aided by RAF and US Air Force planes, had tried to rescue the Clyde Challenger's crew three times, but failed due to bad weather.

Petty officer Max Grosse said the yacht was in a "desperate state" when HMS Dragon reached it.

"Despite racing through the night, we only had three hours of daylight remaining in which to safely remove the crew.

"The prevailing weather conditions and notorious Atlantic swell made it enormously challenging though and really tested the skills of my experienced sea boat coxswains."

image copyrightRoyal Navy
image captionHMS Dragon diverted 500 miles to reach the yacht

The Challenger's skipper, Roy Graham, said problems had begun five days after leaving the Azores when a large wave hit the yacht.

"We got hit with a rogue wave coming in the opposite direction," the 66-year-old Scot said.

"It hit us and knocked us over and dragged the crosstrees into the water, which dragged the mast into the water and snapped it at deck level."

'Thrown 10ft'

Crew member Elisabeth Ligethy, 62 and from Glasgow, said she had been below deck and was thrown 10ft when the wave hit.

The yacht, which is normally berthed in the Clyde Estuary, was designed to compete in the Clipper Round The World yacht race and had been used for corporate, private and charity charters, according to its website.

Its owner, Lewis Learning Ltd, said that the yacht could not be recovered, and that the crew of the Clyde Challenger would arrive onshore on Tuesday.

It extended "huge thanks" to all those involved in "organising and executing the safe transfer of the crew".