An English family of four had to be rescued by a British warship after their yacht hit an iceberg in the South Atlantic.

Carl Lomas and Tracey Worth were sailing with their two daughters when they hit a low-lying iceberg 450km off the coast of South Georgia in the South Atlantic.

The couple, from Chelmorton, Derbyshire, were sailing to Cape Town with their teenage daughters, Caitland and Morgause Lomas.

Yesterday the family was beginning a week-long 1,600km journey to the Falklands after the British warship HMS Clyde picked them up after being alerted to the situation by Falmouth coastguard.

Prospects of saving the yacht - an 18-metre Oyster - which has been the couple's effective home in recent years, are understood to be poor. It suffered engine failure and took in water following the crash.

A coastguard spokesman said: "It (the yacht) was fairly low in the water. Perhaps it will sink."

According to the family's blog, their travels began in March 2007 in Ipswich and have taken in Santander, Cape St Vincent, Salvador, Buenos Aires, Robinson Crusoe Island, Cape Horn, and, recently, South Georgia.

The couple, who go by the names of Lord and Lady Hollinsclough, are joined on the yacht by their two children during school holiday periods.

HMS Clyde was 300km south of the yacht when the alert was raised at 7pm on Friday. The coast guard spokesman explained: "What they've hit is a `growler', where hardly anything is out of the water and the majority is submerged. It is very similar to what the Titanic hit."

Fellow yachtie Steven Gill, who met the couple on their travels, described them as "extremely competent sailors" with a "well-equipped yacht".