Two rowers whose boat was capsized by a freak wave have swapped Atlantic gales and stomach-churning swells for warmth, luxury and lobster after being rescued by one of the world's finest cruise liners.
The transatlantic rowers, Briton Tom Fancett and Dutchman Tom Sauer, spent 10 hours adrift in a tiny life raft before being picked up by the Crystal Serenity early yesterday morning. The men, both 23, were just nine days into the Talisker Atlantic Challenge, a 3,000-mile endurance rowing event, when their 28-ft long vessel was hit by a massive wave 480 miles south-west of the Canary Islands and sank.
"Tom and myself were just changing places," Mr Sauer, a student at St Andrews University, said. "The ocean was quite calm. Suddenly our boat was rocked by an enormous wave the size of which we had never seen before. Our boat was thrown over and capsized. We desperately tried to turn the boat back up again – but to no avail. We are very disappointed but very happy to be alive – and very grateful to our rescuers."
The life raft's emergency locator beacon was picked up by HM Coastguard at Falmouth on Tuesday night. They issued an emergency call to all boats in the area. Four responded, but it was the 820ft-long Crystal Serenity, en route to St Martin in the Caribbean from Tenerife, that was quickest to the scene. The Bahamian-registered ship has 13 decks, a crew of 655 and 535 state rooms. Passengers enjoy silver service and "international, contemporary cuisine" prepared by professional chefs.
The ship's operators, Crystal Cruises, said that the crew would "pull out all the stops" and treat them to lobster, steak and champagne.