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Last Updated: Monday, 9 August, 2004, 10:22 GMT 11:22 UK
Rowers tell of 'exploding cabin'
Jonathan Gornall and Pink Lady team mate row in fog
Four British rowers have recalled how their boat was snapped in half during a hurricane which ended their transatlantic record bid.

They spent six hours in a life raft before being rescued, but suffered only a few grazes.

JON WILLS, 33

We were just 300 miles from the finish, everything going to plan and probably six days of decent conditions.

My chest got crushed, but that's all small fry - I'm alive
We were asleep in the aft cabin and I just remember hearing this explosion and this crushing feeling, just swimming, fighting for our lives.

When the wave hit, the cabin exploded in on us, so I've got a gash on my head and face and my chest got crushed, but that's all small fry - I'm alive and glad to be here.

MARK STUBBS, 40

It was an amazing experience out there. I'd like to be here after a successful crossing but I'm glad to be safe.

This storm was two lows, it was a hurricane and picked up another low en route and we were right in the middle of it.

The most frightening part was opening a hatchway door, filling that compartment with water
That's an eerie feeling to go into the night, having had one pounding and then to go for a second pasting was a real eerie feeling. And we all had a bit of a gut feeling about it.

The second storm hit us a lot harder than the first storm. It built very quickly.

Within two hours we had gone from winds of 6-7 knots up to 10-11. It was very, very powerful.

I was with Pete in the front cabin and there was a huge crash when a rogue wave hit us, the boat was turned violently and we were thrown around.

Then we set around trying to right the boat - which didn't happen.

The cabin then started filling up with water because we had a vent open.

The most frightening part was opening a hatchway door, filling that compartment with water and then to go out into the violent seas.

JONATHAN GORNALL, 48

We were very confident in the boat that she would take anything the weather could throw at us, but we'd had a warning from our weather router that we were in for the worst weather of the trip - and it certainly was.

It hit the ship like a missile - that's the only way I can describe it
We were very used to bad weather and bad seas, you acclimatise quickly, we'd been out there about 40 days.

It hit the ship like a missile - that's the only way I can describe it.

The first sensation was being crushed because what had happened, as we later learned, was that the whole roof had smashed down with the weight of this wave.

He (Jon Wills) and I were crushed, we were under water. And that's all I remember, just holding my breath and fighting and fighting to find the surface.

The highlight for me was the sight and sound of an RAF Nimrod flying in low across the water - I have never seen anything so beautiful in my life.

PETER BRAY, 48

We all shouted to each other - I was the only one on one side and the other three were on the other side [of the broken boat].

When you're in a hypothermic state, you want to go to sleep and that's the worst thing you can do
We had to get the life raft, so we had to basically dive back underneath to get the life raft out and then dive back again to get the grab bag with our communications, navigation, life jackets, etc.

We put it in action, John attached it to the boat, life raft inflated, everyone got it and that's it.

When you're in a hypothermic state, you want to go to sleep and that's the worst thing you can do.

Once you go to sleep you don't wake up so the deal is that you keep everybody awake and the way you do that is all talk, laugh, make jokes and keep everybody happy.


SEE ALSO:
Rowers' rough sea Mayday alert
05 Aug 04  |  England


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