Coast Guard rescues injured U.K. sailors

(AP) SAN FRANCISCO - The U.S. Coast Guard rescued two injured British sailors off the California coast Sunday from a yacht that was hit by a monster wave while participating in an around-the-world race.

A rescue boat reached the battered yacht about 200 miles off the coast and transported the sailors to a Coast Guard cutter, Petty Officer Caleb Critchfield said.

The two were being treated aboard the cutter and will receive additional medical aid when the vessel reaches San Francisco Bay Monday morning, said DeeDee Taft, a spokeswoman for the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race.

The injured were Jane Hitchens, 50, a doctor from Kent, England, who may have suffered broken ribs, and Nik Brbora, 29, a software engineer from London who may have suffered a sprained pelvis, Taft said.

The nearly 70-foot Geraldton Western Australia was hit by a huge wave Saturday when it was about 400 miles from a finish line in San Francisco Bay, knocking out its steering mounting.

"We were making good speed, sailing with the third reef in the main, surfing at 15 to 20 knots," said Juan Coetzer, skipper of the yacht. "Then ... just before the sun came up, a monstrous foaming swell broke over our stern."

The sea was so rough on Saturday that rescuers couldn't parachute down to the yacht and rescue the injured sailors. The Coast Guard was only able to drop medical supplies until the cutter arrived to assist the crew.

Thirteen people were aboard the yacht. Two others who suffered minor injuries decided to continue sailing, Taft said. The crew was expected to arrive in Oakland's Jack London Square on Monday.

The crew planned to fix the yacht and continue two more legs of the race, which began in Southhampton in England and will finish there July 22 after nearly a year at sea. The Geraldton Western Australia is among 10 identical yachts participating in the race.

The boats departed Qingdao, China, about a month ago for the 5,680-mile trek across the Pacific, the longest leg of the race.

The first boat arrived Friday at Jack London Square in Oakland, where the entire fleet is expected to stay until April 14 to make repairs, restock, rest and take part in a sailboat show before embarking for Panama.

Rich Gould of Swindon, England, who was aboard a competing yacht, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the rough sea swayed his boat along the waves "like a surfboard."

He said news of his competitors' injuries was a "harsh reminder that sailing in seas like this can be a hell of a challenge."

"It's quite sobering," Gould said.

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