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Last Updated: Monday, 9 June, 2003, 05:44 GMT 06:44 UK
Rescued rowers on dry land
Mike Noel-Smith greets wife Elizabeth
There were emotional scenes at Fremantle
Two British rowers are back on dry land after being picked up in the Indian Ocean but they face recriminations over the cost of their rescue.

Former army officers Rob Abernethy, 31, and his injured rowing partner Mike Noel-Smith, 45, have arrived in Fremantle, near Perth, after being picked up by an Australian warship.

Their attempt to become the first Britons to row the Indian Ocean was shattered by a freak wave.

But their return to Australian soil, where they left six weeks ago, comes amid a row about the cost of the rescue, estimated at 250,000.

One Australian newspaper has demanded the men make a contribution.

Rescuers with the two rowers
The cost of the rescue is put at 250,000
Mr Abernethy, from Devon, admitted he was embarrassed and sorry about the maritime rescue mission.

He said: "We're very unlucky with what happened and absolutely devastated that we're here in Fremantle.

"We're eternally grateful to the captain and his crew, but if I had my way, we'd still be rowing in the Indian Ocean."

They are pondering having another try, but another Briton may be about to beat them to it.

Simon Chalk, 30, a property developer from Devon, is 101 days into his adventure and is due to arrive in Africa later this week.

Mr Noel-Smith and Mr Abernethy set off on their 4,400 mile journey, from Carnarvon, Western Australia, to Reunion Island, east of Madagascar, last month.

Reunion

The pair had been hoping to set a record for rowing across the Indian Ocean and raise 250,000 for a children's charity.

But 1,500 nautical miles into their 4,000-mile journey, their dream unravelled in a storm last Tuesday.

from left, Rob Abernethy, HMAS Newcastle s Commanding Officer Captain Gerry Christian and Mike Noel-Smith on board HMAS Newcastle.
Rob Abernethy, left, and Mike Noel-Smith after their rescue
Mr Noel-Smith, from Herefordshire, suffered severe concussion when he smashed his head as the rogue wave tore him from his seat.

It also ripped off the boat's rudder, safety rail and stabilising device, and left Mr Noel-Smith drifting in and out of consciousness.

As the pair drifted, they had to endure the boat overturning - it stayed upside down for two minutes.

Three days after the storm, the warship HMAS Newcastle sent out a couple of warning flares as it neared the boat and then lowered two dinghies to rescue them.

Mr Noel-Smith was greeted in Perth by his wife, Elizabeth, before he was taken to hospital.

He was given an initial all-clear after being checked by the ship's doctor on board the Newcastle.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Michael Peschardt
"The venture had been 18 months in the planning"



SEE ALSO:
UK rowers rescued by Australian navy
05 Jun 03  |  Hereford/Worcs
Ocean rower injured during storm
04 Jun 03  |  Hereford/Worcs
Ocean rowers face stormy weather
08 May 03  |  Hereford/Worcs
Ocean row 'in lap of gods'
11 Apr 03  |  Devon


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