Injured round-the-world yacht crew airlifted to safety

 

Two sailors who were injured when a large wave crashed onto their yacht during a round-the-world race were being airlifted to land today, race organisers said.

Three British crew members and one Australian were hurt on board the vessel when it was caught in rough seas about 400 miles off the California coast in the Pacific Ocean.

The boat, the Geraldton Western Australia, is one of 10 UK-registered 68ft yachts competing in the Clipper Round The World Yacht Race, which takes place once every two years.

Jane Hitchens, 50, from Kent, and 29-year-old Nik Brbora, who lives in London, were transferred by small boat to US coast guard cutter, the Bertholf, and then taken to San Francisco by helicopter.

Ms Hitchens, a doctor, has four suspected broken ribs, and Mr Brbora, a software engineer, has suspected pelvic strain.

Both were said to be “in good spirits”.

Two other injured crew members - Max Wilson, 62, a farmer from Queensland, Australia, who also has suspected broken ribs, and Mark Burkes, 47, from Worcestershire, who suffered a back injury - were deemed well enough to remain on the yacht until it reaches land in about 24 hours' time.

The four sailors were hurt when a wave hit the boat in storm conditions on Saturday, sweeping away its steering wheel and mount and some of its communications equipment.

The US coast guard had planned to winch the injured people from the yacht but this was later said to be too dangerous.

Jonathan Levy, of race organisers Clipper Ventures, said: “They were transferred by small boat instead because there was too much movement on the yacht to allow them to be winched. The 100ft mast moves around quite a lot.

“They're now on a helicopter and en route to San Francisco.”

Earlier a C-130 aircraft dropped additional medical supplies to the yacht, including oxygen for one of the crew.

An initial attempt was made at around 2am (6pm local time) yesterday to parachute medical help to the sailors but it was abandoned after poor weather conditions meant paramedics were unable to jump out of the aircraft.

Waves near the yacht are reported to be between about 20ft.

The yacht is heading towards Oakland, San Francisco Bay, under secondary steering and is within 250 miles from port.

Yesterday, race director Jonathan Bailey said: “We are naturally concerned at the recent incident on Geraldton Western Australia and are in close contact with the skipper, UK Maritime and Coastguard at Falmouth and the US Coast Guard.

“The safety of all Clipper Race crew is extremely important to us. Our skippers are highly experienced and several crew members on board have medical training.”

The rest of the 18-strong crew on the boat are said to be uninjured but shaken.

The 40,000-mile race, which features predominantly amateur crews, started in Southampton in July last year and is due to return to the city in July this year.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
people70-year-old was most famous for 'You are So Beautiful'
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballLatest score and Twitter updates
Life and Style
fashionOne man takes the hipster trend to the next level
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'