Joy of survival trumps race failure for rowers
An Auckland man has been winched to safety after his boat almost sunk during an endurance rowing event.
Colin Parker, 36, was the lone Kiwi on the four-man Team Pacific Rowers who were competing in the Great Pacific Race.
The event – calling itself “the biggest, baddest human endurance challenge on the planet” – sees crews attempt to row more than 3800km from Monterey, California to Honolulu, Hawaii.
The mammoth journey, which started on June 7, can last anywhere between 30 and 90 days depending on teams’ proficiency and weather conditions but Parker and his crew were rescued less than two weeks in.
Race director Chris Martin said the US Coast Guard was advised their boat Britannia 4 was taking on water and experiencing difficulties.
Team Pacific Rowers told the story of their rescue in an online statement.
“We all sat on our swamped deck in orange survival suits, in total darkness, awaiting rescue,” they said.
A support yacht was despatched but could not get to the men because of adverse weather conditions.
Because of the six-metre waves and the water filling the vessel, a helicopter was then sent which eventually winched the crew members to safety; nearly three hours after their initial appeal for help.
“Watching a professional rescue diver launch himself under the search lights of a helicopter into stormy seas to swim to our rescue is a sight none of us will forget,” the men said.
They were flown back to California, all without injury and they were quick to pay tribute to their rescuers.
“They are among the most professional and humble people we have ever met. They are truly lifesavers,” the rowers said.
“We understand the pressures that adventurers like us put on emergency services. It is because of people like those mentioned above that those of us who row oceans, climb mountains, play rugby or do anything that puts us at risk are able to push boundaries, personal or otherwise. We will be forever in their debt.”
The team - made up of freelance journalist Parker and Englishmen Fraser Hart, Sam Collins and James Wright - said they believed they were prepared for the race but within a day had started taking on water.
Once the electric bilge gave up, the hand pump was no match for the wild seas and they called for help.
“We are truly gutted that we were unable to make it to Hawaii. We have been preparing for this race for 18 months, saving every last penny and spending an inordinate amount of time,” they said.
“However, our sadness about not making it is vastly outweighed at the joy of still being alive.”
Despite the dramatic rescue, the men said they were keen to do the event in 2016 and believed a world-record time was “not just a pipe dream”.