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Last Updated: Monday, 9 August, 2004, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Rescued rowers back on dry land
Rowers Mark Stubbs, Peter Bray, John Wills and Jonathan Gornall ashore at Foynes
The rowers praised the efforts of their rescue vessel's crew
Four Britons who nearly drowned trying to break an Atlantic rowing record have refused to rule out a second attempt.

The men arrived at the Irish port of Foynes at around 0720BST on Monday on a cargo ship that had rescued them after a 60ft wave destroyed their boat.

Skipper Mark Stubbs paid tribute to the "incredible team effort" he said got them through the ordeal, and left the possibility of another challenge open.

Fellow rower Peter Bray said the failed attempt was "unfinished business".

Firefighter Mark Stubbs, 40, from Poole; ex-SAS diver Peter Bray, 48, from Bridgend, Times journalist Jonathan Gornall, 48, from London; and digital mapping specialist John Wills, 33, set out 40 days ago to break a record set in 1896.

The most frightening part was opening a hatchway door, letting the water in and going out into violent seas
Mark Stubbs

Back on dry land, Mr Stubbs said he felt lucky to be alive.

Describing the moment their boat, the Pink Lady, was hit by a rogue wave during Hurricane Alex, 370 miles from the Isles of Scilly, he said: "The most frightening part was opening a hatchway door, letting the water in and going out into violent seas."

Mr Gornall said he owed his life to Mark Stubbs and Peter Bray for the work they put in retrieving the life rafts from below the water, with Mr Stubbs describing Mr Bray as "our hero".

Meanwhile, John Wills paid tribute to the "superb, professional seamanship" of the crew of Danish ship Scandinavian Reefer in rescuing them - but he said they had been prepared for the worst.

PINK LADY
1 Cabins fore and aft (60cm high)
2 Rowing bay with three rowing positions (only two normally used)
3 Personal safety bags, containing rescue equipment, radio and food
4 10m x 1.9m carbon-fibre and PVC foam hull for speed
5 Solar panels to recharge battery

"We'd prepared for the weather, we had all the safety equipment in the right place, so we were battened down for the storm, we were lying under sea anchor, we were riding the storm and then just unlucky with this rogue wave hitting us."

Jonathan Gornall earlier described to the Times how the men had to fight for their lives when the Pink Lady was torn in half.

"It was by luck and preparation that we survived," he wrote.

The group had been battling to pass Bishop's Rock Lighthouse.

Jonathan Gornall and Pink Lady team mate row in fog

Mr Gornall wrote: "At about 0230 (on Sunday) John and I could hear the roar of a particularly big rogue wave.

"It sounded like an express train and hit the boat like a missile in the dark. That's the only way I can describe it.

"The next thing I know I'm underwater unable to breathe. I didn't immediately think I was dead. It was an unreal nightmare. All I could do was try to swim.

"I was aware I was about to drown."

A rescue helicopter was sent from RAF Chivenor in north Devon to recover the men, but it had to turn back because of dangerous weather conditions.

At Foynes, Jonathan Gornall described his relief when he sighted it: "The highlight of the whole trip was the sight and sound of an RAF Nimrod - I have never seen anything so beautiful in my life."

Gutted

Mark Stubbs' wife, Paula, 39, said the family was "gutted" but relieved that he was safe and heading home.

THE PINK LADY'S CHALLENGE
Location of Pink Lady
Previous 55-day record set by Norwegians in 1896
Pink Lady at sea for 39 days since setting off
Team aiming to raise 50,000 for British Heart Foundation
Boat was sponsored by Pink Lady apples
Crew rowing virtually non-stop in alternating pairs
Trip ended 370 miles off the Isles of Scilly

"My daughters were in floods of tears when I told them it was all over. Their dad was safe but they were devastated for him.

"We are just very, very lucky that he's okay, that they are all okay. It could have been a very different story."

Mrs Stubbs also spoke of her husband's disappointment at not breaking the record, adding: "It's been a six-year dream, fighting for sponsorship, and he's been so pleased and confident in the team.

The rowers set off from Newfoundland in Canada on course for Falmouth in Cornwall in a bid to row 2,100 miles (3,380km) from Canada to Britain.

At one point they were forced to go 45 miles (73km) out of their way to avoid heavy storms, while in the first days of the challenge they encountered twice as many icebergs as usual off the Canadian coastline.

The trip had been designed to raise 50,000 for the British Heart Foundation.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Rower Mark Stubbs
"The second storm hit us a lot harder"


The BBC's Denis Murray
"The relieved wives and families can't wait for the reunion"



SEE ALSO:
Rowers' rough sea Mayday alert
05 Aug 04  |  England
Ocean rowing team dodges storms
23 Jul 04  |  Dorset
Ocean rowers face huge icebergs
04 Jul 04  |  England


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