GB row duo's quest comes to an end

The rowers were towed to safety at Ramsgate harbour by a RNLI crew at 2am.

Two women have been forced to give up their quest to row 2,000 miles non-stop around Britain after battling winds and tides in the Thames Estuary for five days.

Charlene Ayres, 23, and Sally Kettle, 36, were taking part in GB Row 2013, billed as the world's toughest rowing race, when their boat became stuck less than 100 miles from London.

The pair, racing as the Coast Girls in the challenge which set off from London's Tower Bridge on Saturday, were towed to safety at Ramsgate harbour by a RNLI crew at 2am.

Ms Ayres, of Cardiff, who had suffered from sea-sickness and weakened by dehydration, was taken by ambulance to hospital for a check-up. She is being treated for dehydration.

Ms Kettle, of Kingston-on-Thames, who has successfully rowed the Atlantic twice, said it was "with great sadness" they decided to drop out of the race.

The pair found they were constantly being hit by strong headwinds while the other five boats taking part in the challenge had raced 300 miles away near Land's End.

After rowing for six hours, their 23-foot-long boat, Pendovey Swift, finally made it into the Straights of Dover on Wednesday evening.

They anchored four miles north of Ramsgate to wait for the tide to turn in their favour but both their anchors began to drag.

They lifted the anchors to try to move further out to sea and away from danger but the easterly wind was blowing them towards the breakers on the shore just 300 yards away.

In the early hours they called the coastguard and asked to be towed by the local lifeboat.

It brought an official end to their part in GB Row 2013 as under the rules competitors are not allowed any assistance during the non-stop race around Britain.

There are now five crews left in the race which lasts for 45 days.

The Islanders, made up of Josh Taylor, 24, and Alan Morgan, 23, from Mersea Island, Essex, along with James Plumley, 23, from Worcester, and Gavin Sheehan, 25, from Cork, are currently 20 miles in the lead after rounding Land's End.

In second place is Team Hallin, a four-man crew led by ex-Royal Navy Commander David Hosking, who is in a close race with Oarsome Adventure - a crew of six from West Wales, skippered by Mikey Buckley.

The remaining pair in the race, Jason McKinlay and Josh Tarr, in Savoir Faire, are 25 miles from their home port of Salcombe in Devon.