MONTEREY (CBS/AP) — A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew rescued four rowers in rough seas off the coast of Monterey early Saturday morning.

According to Coast Guard officials, the rowers were participating in the Great Pacific Race from Monterey to Honolulu, when their 24-foot rowboat began taking on water Friday evening.

Fraser Hart, Samuel Collins, Colin Parker and James Wight were members of Team Pacific Rowers and were attempting to become the fastest four-man team ever to row from Monterey to Honolulu.

At 9 p.m. Friday the Coast Guard command center in Alameda received a call from a command center in Falmouth, England about the distressed boat. Because the boat was registered in England, the emergency position-indicating radio beacon sent the distress call to Falmouth.

The Coast Guard launched a helicopter from Air Station San Francisco, and a C-130 plane from Air Station Sacramento.

The rowers were located at 1 a.m. about 75 miles west of San Luis Obispo.

Once on the scene, the helicopter crew lowered a rescue swimmer to the rowboat, who hoisted three rowers into the helicopter.

The rescue swimmer then remained on the scene with the fourth rower while the others were taken to the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport to await EMT crews.

The helicopter refueled and returned to the rowboat and hoisted the rescue swimmer and fourth rower into the helicopter.

At about 4 a.m., the fourth rower was taken to Monterey Regional Airport. All four rowers were reported in good condition, Coast Guard officials said.

“This was the most challenging rescue I’ve ever had,” Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Leon, an Air Station San Francisco rescue swimmer said in a statement.

“It was unique because there was no light, seas were incredibly rough, and waves were crashing over the top of the boat, which was already filled with water,” Leon added.

In a status update on the Great Pacific Race website, Chris Martin, Race Director of the Great Pacific Race, issued the following statement on Friday night:

“From our conversations with the members of Team Pacific Rowers over the previous 24 hours we understand that Britannia 4 had been gradually taking on more and more water and that despite the crews attempt to stem the ingress, the water level became insurmountable and an evacuation was deemed necessary. Our support yacht was despatched to their location earlier in the day and arrived on scene shortly before dusk. However due to dangerous weather conditions they were unable to attempt rescue themselves without risking the lives of the crew. The US Coast Guard had been informed of the developing situation and despatched a helicopter to evacuate the crew. The support yacht remained with Britannia 4 for the duration ensuring the safety of the crew and relaying messages from the USCG. At 23:30 a USCG helicopter from Sector 11 – San Francisco arrived on the scene and lifted the four crew members to safety.

We are happy to report that Fraser Hart (skipper), Samuel Collins, James Wight and Colin Parker are all safe and well and have no reported medical problems.”

  • © Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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