Rowers bashed, bruised and out of the race

By Stuart Dye, Stuart Dye
Click on 'more pictures' above for  a graphic showing their difficult journey

Tara Remington and Iain Rudkin's torrid transatlantic rowing challenge has ended in a dramatic rescue and the bitterest of disappointments.

A big wave capsized the New Zealand team's boat, leaving Remington with a head wound that needed stitches. The pair managed to escape to their liferaft before a rescue vessel arrived and winched them to safety in 8m swells.

"They are lucky to be alive," said team manager Rob Hamill.

"They are safe, but shaken, battered, bruised and extremely disappointed."

The pair had already contacted the support vessel Aurora for help with a leak, meaning rescuers were only an hour away when the pair were forced into their liferaft.

But the rescue means the duo are out of the race.

The early call for help was rare good luck for the Team Sun Latte crew, whose attempt at the 4727km crossing had been blighted by mishaps.

Since they left the Canary Islands on November 27 the rowers have battled extreme weather including a hurricane, power failure, chronic seasickness and a shark attack.

The 4m shark spent 15 minutes butting and biting the 2m boat while the rowers hid in the well of the boat and tried not to move or make a sound.

Mr Hamill said it was thought the shark attack, on December 21, had damaged the hull.

"It was headbutting the boat and, combined with the weather, the hull has been compromised."

Remington and Rudkin had been at sea for 46 days, travelling 1900 nautical miles (3518km). They had about 1000 nautical miles (1852km) and less than 20 days left when they noticed the leak on Sunday night.

At that time they "considered the unthinkable" of giving up, said Mr Hamill, but decided they would try to complete the journey after repairing the hull.

The pair called for help from support vessel Aurora, but while in the cabin bailing a large wave flipped the boat, dashing their hopes.

"We are safe and sound but it was quite a surreal experience going round and round, upside down in one of these boats," said Rudkin in a call to his manager yesterday.

"We were lucky we asked for assistance 12 hours beforehand."

Team Sun Latte was second out of the mixed crews and 11th overall in the 26-boat fleet when its race ended. Two other teams have also capsized and been rescued.

The Atlantic Rowing Race - the fourth since the competition began in 1995 - has gained a reputation as one of the world's most gruelling sporting events and the ultimate test of mental and physical strength and endurance.

Mr Hamill said the most psychologically damaging aspect of the rescue might be yet to come.

The pair's diaries, video footage and photos remain on the stricken boat, which according to the rules of the race will be burned at sea.

"It's heartbreaking for them," Mr Hamill said.

"But the rough seas mean the Aurora crew will not try to board, but will fire flares and petrol to scupper the boat."

The Aurora is heading to another troubled boat before it will take Remington and Rudkin to dry land at Antigua.

The rowers are due to fly back to New Zealand next month.

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