British rowers rescued after 16 hours stranded in Atlantic ocean

After capsizing several times the group had lost their oars and their GPS Credit: PA

Four British rowers who became stranded in the Atlantic Ocean after their boat capsized and they lost their oars have been rescued.

The group had been stranded for more than 16 hours, 400 nautical miles from Cape Verde, off the coast of Africa, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said.

After capsizing several times, Gemma Chalk, Clare Lanyon, Jane McIntosh and Olivia Wilson lost their oars and global positioning system from their rowing boat, Fire Ant.

The group were forced to abandon their charity attempt to break the women's speed record for rowing nearly 3,000 miles across the Atlantic between Gran Canaria and Barbados.

The UK Coastguard said it had managed to contact the group on a satellite phone and asked them to activate an emergency beacon before sending a mayday broadcast to other ships in the area.

The group was finally rescued at 1.25am on today by a bulk carrier on its way to Canada.

The group set off from Gran Canaria on January 26. Credit: Oceanus Rowing

UK Coastguard duty controller Ian Guy said: "The rowers were an extremely long way from land with no other vessels in the immediate vicinity.

"We received several responses to our mayday request, the nearest vessel being 90 nautical miles away, they quickly diverted and set course to the stricken rowers, taking 11 hours to reach them."

He said the rowers were now on board the bulk carrier and were said to be "well".

The crew started their attempt, which was to raise money for Barnardo's and Forces Children's Trust, on January 26 as they chased the current record of 45 days, 15 hours and 26 minutes.

A spokesman for the Fire Ant crew said: "Following damage to Fire Ant caused during a capsize incident yesterday and after discussions with shore support and UK Coastguard, the girls have decided it is unwise to continue with their attempt to row across the Atlantic Ocean."

A map on the Oceanus Rowing website appeared to show their last location. Credit: Oceanus Rowing/Google Maps