On Wednesday, two transatlantic rowers were pulled from sea by a Crystal Cruises ship after their eight-metre boat was hit by a big wave and capsized. Londoner Tom Fancett and Dutch friend Tom Sauer, who is in his final year at St Andrew’s University – both 23 – were forced to spend the night in a life raft before being picked up by the luxury liner almost 500 miles south-west of the Canary islands and eight days after setting off from Barbados.
Sauer told the race organisers in a message how they were switching places in the boat when the incident happened on Tuesday night. He said that the ocean was rather calm, and they were feeling pretty good. The boat was suddenly rocked by a huge wave, which was so big they had never witnessed the size before. Their boat was thrown over, capsized and the cabin was flooded.
Sauer went on to describe how they tried to get the boat turned back up again but were unsuccessful, and it actually began to sink. They were able to get the life raft and life jackets out during a very difficult and nervous period. After getting in the life raft, they saw their dream sink. The two floated for about 10 hours until the Crystal Serenity rescued them. They were obviously disappointed about losing their boat and the race, but very happy to have survived and grateful to their rescuers. He added that they were en route to St Maarten and would return with a full report shortly.
Falmout coastguard had coordinated the rescue after the emergency beacon on the rowers’ boat was triggered on Tuesday at 7:54pm – 480 miles from the Canary islands. The Crystal Serenity was the closest ship to them at 120 miles away. A spokesman for the coastguard said that the vessel turned around and proceeded through the night at speed. They spotted a red flare when they reached within seven miles of the men’s position. They located the pair in their life raft at about 6am and recovered them onto the ship. The rowers were reported to be uninjured.
Fancett and Sauer were competing in the 2011 Talisker Atlantic Challenge and set off from San Sebastián de la Gomera on the Canary Island of La Gomera on December 4. Their plan was to row the ‘Columbus route’ across the water to Port St Charles in Barbados. They aren’t the only two to come close to losing their lives during the race, however. Rowers James Cracknell and Ben Fogle lost their boat to a capsize in the 2005-06 race. Steve Redgrave, another rower and friend of Cracknell, had given Fancett and Sauer encouragement before the race.
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