Rower winched to safety by US Coast Guard

Team Pacific Rowers. From left, Sam Collins, James Wight, Fraser Hart and Colin Parker. Photo / Facebook
Team Pacific Rowers. From left, Sam Collins, James Wight, Fraser Hart and Colin Parker. Photo / Facebook

A New Zealand resident has been rescued from the Pacific Ocean after the boat he was in began sinking during a 3800km rowing race.

Colin Parker, 36, of Auckland is among the four men of Team Pacific Rowers who were airlifted to safety after their boat took on water near the coast of the United States.

Three members of the crew were winched to safety in a rescue cage by the US Coast Guard, while skipper Fraser Hart remained on the boat with the rescue diver for an hour and a half as the helicopter refuelled in San Luis Obispo.

Mr Parker and two other crew members -- Sam Collins, 25 and James Wight, 36 -- were taken to San Luis Obispo airport.

The rowers were taking part in the Great Pacific Race between Monterey in California, and Honolulu in Hawaii.

The challenge takes participants between 30 and 90 days. The vessels are not permitted to carry a sail or engine.

The other members of the team were men from England.

In a statement released today, the thanked rescuers from the US Coast Guard, who "risked their lives" to rescue them.

"They are among the most professional and humble people we have ever met. They are truly lifesavers.

"We understand the pressures that adventurers like us put on emergency services. It is because of people like those mentioned above that those of us who row oceans, climb mountains, play rugby or do anything that puts us at risk are able to push boundaries, personal or otherwise. We will be forever in their debt."

The team said they felt adequately prepared for the journey.

"Conditions of entry into the race are strict and extensive and rightly so. We were making good speed on a respectable bearing.

"The boat we thought was watertight was clearly not. Within a day water was seeping through from our watermaker hatch into the main cabin. Although we could keep this at bay by temporarily using the electric bilge, it was not sustainable. Slowly the boat gained weight at the stern end and water came on the vessel quicker than we could bail it.

"When the support yacht arrived at 7.45pm on Friday, June 20 our electrics failed, meaning an inability to bilge electrically, leaving us with just a hand pump. From this point what was a slowly worsening situation ballooned into a soon to become Mayday scenario.

"Confused seas of up to 20 feet and winds up to 30 knots quickly inundated the boat with water as we all sat on our swamped deck in orange survival suits, in total darkness, awaiting rescue. The support yacht circled us, maintaining vocal and VHF communication, to ensure we were safe and only two hours later the team from the US Coast Guard arrived in their specialized rescue helicopter."

The team said they were "all alive, in good spirits and with no injuries".

Mr Parker is British, and has been living in Auckland since late last year.

- nzherald.co.nz / APNZ

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