Storm-hit UK rowers await rescue from Pacific attempt


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Two British sailors have abandoned attempts to row across the Pacific Ocean and are awaiting rescue after being hit by a tropical storm.

Sarah Outen and Charlie Martell, who were separately attempting to row from Japan to the United States, both made mayday distress calls early this morning and are waiting for the Japanese coastguard to pick them up, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said.

Ms Outen, 26, whose Pacific row was part of a round-the-world bike and boat expedition, sent a distress signal at 2.04am this morning from her boat Gulliver, the MCA said.

Seven hours later, Territorial Army Lieutenant Martell, 41, also made a distress call when winds of up to 50 knots and waves of more than 50ft (15.25m) caused his boat to capsize several times, damaging the vessel, a spokesman said.

Both rowers were hit by Tropical Storm Mawar.

The signals from their British registered EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) were tracked by Falmouth Coastguard in Cornwall and was then passed to the Japanese coastguard which is now co-ordinating the rescue.

Ms Outen, from Rutland, is "safe and doing well", according to a post on her website.

"While on her solo row across the North Pacific Ocean, Sarah has been hit by the Tropical Storm Mawar and her boat, Gulliver, has rolled on several occasions," it said.

"The boat has been damaged, the extent of which is as yet unknown. The team has however spoken to Sarah and she is safe and doing well.

"Following an emergency call from Sarah, the Japanese coastguard sent a plane to assess the situation and is now sending a boat to pick Sarah up on Friday pm JST, 8th June 2012. A Coastguard plane is staying overhead to keep an eye on Sarah."

A spokesman for Lt Martell had been at sea for 34 days and was 700 miles (1,126.5km) from Japan when the storm damaged his boat.

"The structural damage to one of the boat's main bulkheads occurred when the boat was 'pitch-poled' - turned on its end - before landing upside-down on its deck," he said.

"It's the most dangerous form of capsize a boat can experience, owing to the forces involved and speed of events."

He added that the former Royal Engineer and current TA officer, son of the maker of Stinking Bishop cheese, is "exhausted while the storm continues and emotional at having to bring the crossing to an early close".

Lt Martell has strapped himself into one of the boat's two cabins and is now awaiting the arrival of the coastguard, which, the spokesman said, is expected to reach him at around 2am British Summer Time on Saturday.