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Thursday, 4 April, 2002, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Crew rescued from flooded yacht
Leopard of London at Cowes
Leopard of London was in a collision at Cowes
Seven people have been taken off a record-breaking racing yacht in a mid-Atlantic gale.

The captain of the 90-feet Leopard of London had said it was too dangerous for his crew to take to life rafts.

He said they would ride out the seven-metre swell until Friday, when a salvage tug could reach the vessel from the Azores.

But UK coastguards at Falmouth, in west Cornwall, advised him to abandon the vessel on Wednesday as conditions worsened.

The after section was flooded and the main section was flooding slowly

Tracy Thomas, Falmouth coastguard
The Leopard of London shattered the record in the 2001 Round The Island race, round the Isle of Wight, by more than an hour.

Television gardening presenter Alan Titchmarsh helped crew the yacht at Cowes last year.

The vessel got into trouble in a force 8 gale on Tuesday.

Its rudder broke during a voyage from the Azores to Southampton.

Winds rising

Two merchant vessels that answered calls for help from Falmouth on Tuesday were unable to reach the boat, 600 miles south-west of Land's End and 450 miles from the Azores.

But the gas tanker Kurzeme went to its aid after a second distress call on Wednesday.

Leopard of London
Leopard was "sleek and tremendously fast"
The seven crew members were taken aboard the Kurzeme at 1858 GMT, five hours later.

They were due to reach La Coruna in northern Spain at 0200 GMT on Friday morning.

Tracy Thomas, coastguard watch assistant, said: "They are all well with no injuries at all.

"Although the weather had calmed a little, it was due to freshen up again and that's why we advised them to come off.

"The after section was flooded and the main section was flooding slowly.

"The flooding was due to a broken rudder."

The yacht's owner had sent a tug from the Azores, 450 miles away, to attempt a salvage.

To feel it creaming through the water when you are sitting on the back is tremendous

Alan Titchmarsh, former crewman
A brochure for a charter company describes the Leopard of London as "tremendously fast, sleek and luxurious."

It completed last year's Round The Island Race in five hours and five minutes.

Owner Mike Slade said at the time: "You can't take the responsibility for a big boat and not accept the fact that if things go badly it's going to be expensive.

"You come off at the end of the race with quite a relief that everybody has got back safely."

Alan Titchmarsh told an interviewer after his trip on board: "It's a most beautiful boat, and to feel it creaming through the water when you are sitting on the back there is a tremendous pleasure."

Click here to go to Southampton
See also:

23 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Couple rescued after sea drama
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