NEWS

Capsizing ends trans-Atlantic quest but crew in good spirits

04/07/2013 01:10 EDT | Updated 06/07/2013 05:12 EDT
The U.S. Coast Guard, which helped rescue two Canadians and two Americans in the Atlantic after a rogue wave capsized their boat, is praising the crew for being so prepared for disaster.

The four, including Olympic rower Adam Kreek of Victoria — who won gold at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games in the men’s eights — were picked up by a 250-metre-long commercial vessel Saturday afternoon, 600 kilometres north of Puerto Rico, after they managed to board a life raft earlier in the day.

Kreek’s wife, Rebecca Sterritt, spoke with her husband Saturday. She says all four are in good spirits.

“When you almost die, quite literally, it changes your perspective,” Sterritt told CBC News. “And while they really wanted to become the first to row from Africa to the United States, you know, they certainly accomplished a lot over the course of the journey and learned a lot.”

Kreek described seeing two waves hit the rowboat during a bout of strong weather on Saturday, CBC's Ian Hanomansing reported.

"These two waves that at any other time in any other sequence would not have caused a huge problem — maybe some discomfort, but nothing worse than that — just the way these two waves hit were, as Adam Kreek says, bad luck, and it capsized this 29-foot rowboat," said Hanomansing.

Two of the rowers who were on shift at the time were thrown into the water. Kreek and the fourth crew member were in the boat's small cabin and swam to the surface.

The men dove under the water and, using a knife, managed to retrieve the life raft trapped in the hull of the capsized boat.

A Coast Guard C-130 aircraft crew from Clearwater, Fla., watched over members of the trans-Atlantic rowing team until they could be picked up by the Panamanian-flagged automobile carrier Heijin.

"Those saved were well prepared with proper survival and distress signalling equipment as well as having a support team on shore. All boaters should be as well prepared," the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement Sunday, a day after co-ordinating the rescue.

Markus Pukonen of Tofino, B.C., said in an email to CBC News that he and Kreek, along with Jordan Hanssen and Pat Fleming of Seattle, are in good spirits.

- RELATED: Canadian Olympian's trans-Atlantic trip suffers 'catastrophic capsize'

- VIDEO: Olympian Adam Kreek's video diary during the odyssey

The four were headed for San Jose, Puerto Rico, aboard the Heijin and were expected to arrive around 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday.

The OAR (Ocean Adventure, Rowing and Education) Northwest team would have been the first crew to row from Africa to North America had they completed their journey successfully.

They were 73 days into a 6,500-kilometre journey from Dakar, Senegal to Miami, Fla., that was expected to take roughly 80 to 100 days.

Greg Spooner, spokesman for the expedition, said he was told the large wave overtook the boat and it was unable to right itself as designed.

The boat is equipped with scientific gear that was gathering data and uploading it to the web by satellite phone as part of a scientific initiative sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

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