Six men have been saved from drowning after their boat capsized as they were days away from entering the record books as the first crew to row across the Atlantic in a month.
Mark Beaumont, 29, who had been blogging the voyage for The Independent, was among the crew aboard Sara G. The men spent several hours adrift in a life raft 520 miles short of their destination, the port of St Charles in Barbados. They began the 2,500-mile journey in Morocco on 2 January.
They crew was rescued by a Panamanian cargo ship, the Nord Taipei, in the early hours of this morning, after activating a electronic distress beacon that was picked up by Falmouth Coastguard. The Cornish station, working with authorities in Martinique, diverted the 32,000 ton container ship to rescue the men.
The skipper of the Sara G, Matt Craughwell described how the 11 metre-long craft took on water after being tossed, stern up, by two large 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.
“All six crew members made it out and for the next fifteen 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.”
A statement from the Atlantic Odyssey support team gave further details, explaining that a wave rotated Sara G by 180 degrees, "causing it to immediately take on water and capsize within ten seconds."
The statement continued: "In the next fifteen minutes the crew secured the life raft and attached it to the boat. They set-off their alerting alarms which led to a response from Falmouth Coast Guard.
"The crew did try to recover the vessel but due to the speed of the water retention, this proved unsuccessful.
"The crew spent approximately three hours recovering on the raft before Matthew Craughwell and Mark Beaumont returned to the vessel to recover equipment to aid the rescue attempt."
In his blog, Mr Beaumont has described a gruelling challenge. The men have been rowing in shifts of two hours on, two hours off, 24 hours a day. For nearly a month none of the crew members have slept for more than two hours at a time.
"This is, without comparison the toughest expedition of my life," wrote Mr Beaumont, who in 2008 cycled round the world in a record-breaking 194 days.
Although weather conditions had hampered progress, the crew was within reach of breaking the 30-day record, considered the “four minute mile” of ocean rowing.
However, Mr Craughwell said that it was “too early for disappointment” and that the crew were above all grateful to be alive.
The crew also included Ian Rowe, a 45-year-old father of four; Aodhan Kelly, 26, from Dublin, Ireland; Simon Brown, 37, a father of three from Wiltshire and father-of-two, Yaacov Mutnikas from Berkshire.
In December British rower Tom Fawcett and his Dutch-Russian companion Tom Sauer had to be rescued when their vessel was overturned by a wave.
Mr Craughwell paid tribute to the rescuers, saying that the co-ordination of the mission went “very well.”