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All crew aboard distressed ships in transatlantic race safe

Passengers aboard the cruise liner Queen Mary 2 look on as they approach a British sailor on a disabled yacht in the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, June 10, 2017. All crew aboard four storm-battered vessels that had been racing across the Atlantic Ocean are safe, the Halifax-based joint rescue co-ordination centre said Saturday. A spokeswoman for the centre said crew on two sailboats that put out distress calls were rescued Saturday morning, while a third boat made its way to calmer waters.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Dave Ashley *MANDATORY CREDIT*
June 10, 2017 - 8:00 PM

HALIFAX - All crew aboard four storm-battered vessels that had been racing across the Atlantic Ocean are safe, the Halifax-based joint rescue co-ordination centre said Saturday.

A spokeswoman for the centre said crew on two sailboats that put out distress calls were rescued Saturday morning, while a third boat made its way to calmer waters.

Maj. Rhonda Stevens said the cruise liner Queen Mary 2 picked up a British sailor from a disabled yacht and is en route to Halifax, and two Dutch sailors rescued from another vessel in the mid-Atlantic are on a tanker headed towards the Bahamas.

A fourth vessel in the race declared a state of emergency on Saturday when it started taking on water, she said. The two Bulgarian sailors on board have been rescued and are on a research vessel headed to St. John's, N.L.

Stevens said sailors braved up to 10 metre swells in damaged boats, one of which saw its mast collapse. Some of the boats were manned by one crew member fighting off fatigue while trying to keep afloat in the heaving waters.

"It obviously was a long, drawn-out (effort) with a couple of days of uncertainty," said Stevens. "Those sailors were very experienced, so they hung on and did what they had to until we could get the rescue complete."

Stevens said rescuers faced challenging conditions during Saturday's mission, but with support in the skies from the Royal Canadian Air Force as well as British and Portugese aircraft, nearby vessels came to the sailors' aid and brought everyone to safety.

"When people are in distress, everybody willingly comes to help," said Stevens. "Rescuers showed their heroism and their passion for working on the sea and their skills, and they were able to save the lives of those people that were in distress."

A spokesperson for Cunard, which owns the Queen Mary 2, said the cruise liner was involved in the rescue operation, and that the lone sailor who was picked up is now safely on board.

"It is standard seafaring practice to go to the aid of a vessel in distress," Capt. Chris Wells, the ship's captain, said in a statement. "We were pleased to be able to help and delighted that the yachtsman is safe and well and now on board Queen Mary 2."

Dave Ashley, a band musician who works on the Queen Mary, said that he and several crew members rushed to the top deck Saturday morning to see a sailboat bobbing in nearby waves as a Canadian aircraft circled overhead.

"I woke up this morning expecting a routine crew drill," Ashley said in an online message from the cruise ship. "And found out there was a rescue in progress."

The cruise liner pulled up right next to the yacht, he said, and the skipper hopped into a rescue boat and was brought to safety.

An announcement blared that the sailor had pulled the cogs to sink the boat in a few hours, according to a recording provided by Ashley, and the captain thanked his crew for a job well done.

Rescue officials have said the vessels racing between Plymouth, England, and Newport, R.I., encountered very heavy weather late Thursday about 1,660 kilometres east of Newfoundland.

Two coast guard vessels and the Canadian warship HMCS Charlottetown were sent to the scene on Friday, but Stevens said the vessels were later called off. She said two Hercules and an Aurora aircraft took turns patrolling the area, keeping in contact with the sailors on board.

While the degree of damage varied, Stevens guessed that many of the vessels were wrecked beyond repair. "I can't imagine that anyone's going to go mid Atlantic to salvage them," she said.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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