Two American rowers were rescued this morning by the British tall ship Stavros S Niarchos - 16/1/06

The crew of the British tall ship Stavros S Niarchos from Portsmouth have rescued two American female rowers taking part in the Trans-Atlantic Rowing Race 2006. The events started yesterday, Sunday 15 January 2006, when at 1649 Hours GMT a 406 Mhz EPIRB activation alert was picked up by the US Coastguard registered to American Fire Atlantic Challenge crewed by American women, Sarah Kessans and Emily Kohl.

Stavros S Niavros was mid-Atlantic on her 25-day voyage to Barbados from Tenerife when she was contacted by the US Coastguard. As the closest vessel to the emergency signal Capt Darren Naggs immediately offered to assist and the crew sprung in to action to turn the ship around and head off 120Nm to the east.

At approximately 0930 hours GMT on Monday 16 January 2006, Emily and Sarah were located and safely rescued by the crew of the STAVROS. A US coastguard aircraft was in position and once Stavros arrived on the scene, the aircraft dropped a red flare so the Captain could easily locate the girls’ position.

Sarah and Emily were found clinging to the upturned hull of their rowing boat American Fire Atlantic Challenge. They had been there for 16 hours but fortunately they were unharmed, but a little shaken, and desperately disappointed that their voyage should end in this way. It appears that American Fire Atlantic Challenge capsized in very extreme conditions late yesterday afternoon. Sarah has confirmed that the hatch in the top of the aft cabin was open when the boat capsized, which compromised the watertight integrity of the boat and explains why it did not self-right.

Captain Darren Naggs, master of Stavros S Niarchos which has a crew of 49 on board, said: ” All the crew worked very hard throughout the night to re-set the sails as we had to change course for the rescue area. When we arrived this morning Emily and Sarah, although cold and tired, were very relived to see us. As there was a rough sea we had to stream our five-man life raft astern of us and the girls had to jump in. We recovered them on board and they received a huge applause and cheer from Stavros’ crew. We gave them blankets, a cup of tea and a big breakfast before putting them into warm beds. I think after a rest, they’ll be up for getting involved with our voyage and will give sailing a tall ship a go!”

Capt Darren continued: “This is exactly what sail training and life at sea is all about – camaraderie, team work and everyone helping each other. Stavros’ crew have been really pleased that they were able to help, straight away their first concerns were for the safety of the American Fire crew”.

Stavros S Niarchos is due to arrive in Barbados in a week’s time to start a series of holiday activity voyages around the Caribbean islands. The ship is owned by the Tall Ships Youth Trust, the UK’s leading tall ships charity dedicated to the personal development of young people aged 16-25 in a challenging environment.