After spending 40 days adrift in the Atlantic Ocean, a British couple are rescued

News agencies are reporting the rescue of a British couple who had been adrift in the Atlantic Ocean for 40 days. The couple – both competent sailors – were saved by an Italian tanker, Indian Point, heading back to Amsterdam.

Stuart Armstrong (51) and his partner Andrea Davison (48) left the Cape Verde Islands to sail to Antigua in January. However, 1,200 miles from their destination the yacht’s rudder jammed, and any attempts to fix it were useless. Stuart Armstrong explained: “In effect we were sailing round and round in circles as the rudder was stuck all the way over. The coastguard said it was too dangerous for anyone to come out so we just had to carry on drifting in the middle of the ocean.

“We tried to counteract our continual turning by putting drogues over the side to try and help point the boat towards land but we didn’t really have any great success.

“At first we were not too bothered as we had a good supply of dry provisions, the usual things you have on a boat – pasta, kidney beans, biscuits, rice and soya. There was also plenty of water to keep us going, the radio was still working and we had power so there was no need to be too worried.

“I have crossed the Atlantic seven times and this was Andrea’s fourth so we are pretty experienced and for the first few days it was a challenge and a bit of an adventure. We alerted the coastguards in Britain and America and we also let our families know – I spent a good few days trying to fix the rudder as well but I just didn’t have any luck.

“Our first problem was around 10 days or so later when the alternator broke which meant that we had no power – all that we had was a small solar panel which gave us enough to fire up the satellite phone but we had to ration it. ‘The loss of the alternator also meant that we could not use the desalination unit which turns sea water into drinking water so we also had to start rationing that as well.”

American coastguards monitored their position but because of their remote location a rescue attempt was impossible. But happily, the couple’s plight ended around 320 miles south east of the coast of Bermuda. They had drifted 1,000 miles north of Antigua and were warned by coastguards that a powerful storm was heading towards them as their SOS was picked up by the Indian Point.

The 183-metre tanker immediately changed its course and began heading towards the Sara. It’s Captain, Michele Cancrini, said: “It was actually a very difficult and complicated rescue because we had to line up a 30,000 tonne, 183-metre supertanker alongside a 16 tonne, 13-metre yacht, all that in a heavy northerly swell. The yacht was banging against the side of the ship all the time during the rescue and we could not lower a rope ladder down to it so we had to throw out a line to secure them and then throw out two body harnesses.”

Mr Armstrong added: “As she drew close the size of the tanker was amazing, it was absolutely enormous and the swell was sending us banging into the side all the time – we were also riding some very high waves. ‘It was very frightening and the whole rescue operation to get us off took almost two hours because it was so dangerous and we had to be very careful.”

Although unhurt, they are both exhausted and looking forward to getting home.