Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Coronavirus: British sailors in Tahiti face repatriation wait

Rubicon 3 Adventure Sailing crew in the Galapagos Islands Image copyright Rubicon 3 Adventure Sailing
Image caption The group were in good spirit as they started their voyage in the Galapagos Islands

A group of British sailors stranded in Tahiti face up to a month aboard their vessel amid a coronavirus lockdown.

Their 60ft yacht was diverted to the Pacific Ocean island during a 3,000-mile voyage after social restrictions were imposed in the region.

The boat is confined to a marina on the island in French Polynesia and the 10-strong crew is allowed on shore only for essential supplies.

The Foreign Office said it would ensure the group receive support.

The yacht is operated by Hampshire-based adventure sailing company Rubicon 3 as part of a round-the-world rally.

Arabella Sprot, the yacht's first mate, said as the coronavirus crisis deepened the rally's organiser, the World Cruising Club, suggested they travel to Papeete in Tahiti where there are more facilities.

Image copyright Arabella Sprot
Image caption First mate Arabella Sprot said the group feel like they are in "no man's land"

The 31-year-old, from Owslebury, said the group managed to make the 1,000-mile journey despite running out of fuel and surviving on limited stocks of food.

She said: "We started to get more and more information about how the last flight had left and that we weren't technically allowed in, but that we couldn't leave - so we are in no man's land.

"French Polynesia doesn't want us, we don't want to be a burden but we also don't have a way out."

'Tropical paradise'

Ms Sprot added: "It may be a tropical paradise but when you are confined to a marina and living on a non-air-conditioned boat with 10 people, it is a challenge."

The World Cruising Club said it was liaising with the government but it would be "extremely unlikely" a flight home could be arranged before early May.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said: "We are in contact with the tour organiser of a group of British people in Tahiti, and are in touch with the local authorities to ensure they receive the support they require."

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