A rowing team that includes Olympic gold medal winner and Estonian-Canadian Adam Kreek has suffered a "catastrophic capsize" 73 days into an 80-day trans-Atlantic expedition.
Greg Spooner, spokesman for the expedition, said the four rowers made it safely aboard a life raft and were last seen by a U.S. Coast Guard airplane next to their overturned boat, approximately 400 miles north of Puerto Rico.
Former men's eight rower Adam Kreek, of Victoria, B.C, is part of the four-membersaid team who were hoping to complete the 6,500-kilometre journey across the Atlantic Ocean from Dakar, Senegal to Miami, Florida.
Spooner said he was contacted by the U.S. Coast Guard at 3:50 a.m. PT Saturday when its station in San Juan, Puerto Rico picked up a distress signal from the ocean-going rowboat.
The Coast Guard made visual and radio contact with the four rowers, who have since been rescued by a commercial ship that is taking them to port in Puerto Rico, said Spooner.
The boat was designed to right itself if it capsized but did not do so, Spooner said.
Along the way, the crew studied the health of the Atlantic Ocean and monitored their own physiological response to the extreme conditions.
The accident follows years of preparation and planning, Spooner said.
“Unfortunately, careful planning cannot make an important expedition 100 per cent safe,” he said.
The expedition, sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Fund and Ocean Adventure, Rowing and Education (OAR Northwest), left Dakar, Senegal, on Jan. 23.
The crew were rowing the open ocean, self-supported 24 hours a day, with each crew member rotating through two-hour shifts.
A computer program monitored the crew’s activities and ensured they followed a strict schedule that maximized their energy and mental sharpness.
There was also scientific equipment on board to monitor the ocean conditions and marine life.
The OAR Northwest team — Adam Kreek, Jordan Hasnssen, Markus Pukonen and Pat Fleming — would have been the first crew to row from Africa to North America.
Adam Kreek's trans-Atlantic trip suffers 'catastrophic capsize' (1)