Rowers rescued after boat capsizes


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The Independent Online

Six men hoping to become the first to row the Atlantic in under 30 days have been saved after their boat capsized.

Mark Beaumont, 29, who was writing a blog for i's sister paper The Independent about the voyage, and the crew of the Sara G were rescued in the Caribbean yesterday after three hours adrift in life rafts.

The skipper, Matt Craughwell, said their boat had begun to take on water after being tossed, stern upwards, by huge waves. "It happened so quickly. Three of us were inside the cabins when the boat went over. She was taking on water very, very quickly," he told the BBC.

The crew, who set off from Morocco on 2 January, were 27 days into their 2,500-mile trip when the 36ft Sara G overturned 520 miles from their destination port of St Charles, Barbados. They were unable to right the waterlogged craft and abandoned it.

Their electronic distress beacon was picked up by coastguards in Falmouth, Cornwall, who worked with officials in Martinique to divert a 32,000-tonne cargo ship, the Nord Taipei, to help. The Panamanian-registered vessel picked up the stranded men early yesterday.

Mr Craughwell added: "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. All six crew made it out, and for the next 15 minutes we battled to get the life rafts out and secured to the boats and set off one of the emergency evacuation signals.

"To be honest, frightened is a word I wouldn't use. It was a flight or fight response from everybody."

Mr Beaumont, of Perthshire, has described the gruelling Atlantic Odyssey challenge in his blog. The men rowed in shifts of two hours on, two hours off, for 24 hours a day. For nearly a month, none of them slept for more than two hours at a time.

"This is, without comparison, the toughest expedition of my life," said Mr Beaumont, who cycled around the world in a record-breaking 194 days in 2008.

Although bad weather had already hampered Sara G's progress, the team was within reach of breaking the 30-day record for an Atlantic crossing, which is considered the "four-minute mile" of ocean rowing. Mr Craughwell said it was "too early for disappointment" and the crew were simply grateful to be alive.

The other rowers are Ian Rowe, 45, from Bedford; Aodhan Kelly, 26, from Dublin; Simon Brown, 37, of Wiltshire; and Yaacov Mutnikas, of Berkshire. They must now wait for the Nord Taipei to dock in Gibraltar on 9 February.