'Catastrophic capsize event' cuts short trans-Atlantic rowing expedition

SEATTLE – A trans-Atlantic rowing team that included a Canadian Olympic gold medallist has suffered a “catastrophic capsize” that has cut short its expedition.

The CWF Africa to the Americas Expedition — whose crew included Victoria resident Adam Kreek — left Dakar, Senegal on Jan. 23 to row unassisted across the Atlantic to Miami.

Early Sunday morning a spokesman for the expedition says he received a phone call from the U.S. Coast Guard in San Juan, Puerto Rico, about a distress signal that was activated aboard the ocean rowboat.

Kreek is a three-time world champion and was a member of Canada’s men’s eight that won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Greg Spooner says the boat and its crew were 73 days into their expedition to study the health of the Atlantic when they ran into trouble.

He says the signal from a personal locator beacon attached to a life jacket had been activated about 643 kilometres north of Puerto Rico.

A Coast Guard airplane located the crew’s overturned boat and their life raft. Spooner says the rowboat suffered a “catastrophic capsize event” which left it unable to right itself as it was designed to.

The four rowers were able to safely deploy their life raft and were waiting to be rescued by a passing commercial vessel.

Spooner says although years of preparation and training went into the expedition even the most careful planning cannot make a trip 100 per cent safe.

The team of four, which was sharing much of its journey with observers through frequent updates on a blog and social media, was hoping to be the first to row from mainland Africa to mainland U.S.