Joy as battered Atlantic rowers are rescued by container ship

The Northern Echo: Nick Rees and Edward Curtis  Pic: Ben Duffy Nick Rees and Edward Curtis Pic: Ben Duffy

TWO grandparents say they have received the best Christmas present they could wish for, after their son-in-law was dramatically rescued from his wrecked rowing boat in the mid-Atlantic.

Chris and Margie Griffiths, of Burrill, near Bedale, spoke of their “immense relief” after Ed Curtis was picked up by a passing container ship during a storm as he competed in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge race.

Sailing instructor Mr Curtis, a father-of-two, and his fellow oarsman Nick Rees had been leading the pairs category of the 3,000-mile race from the Canary Islands when their boat rolled over for the second in a week as a storm erupted on Tuesday (December 17).

Mrs Griffiths said the pair, who have raised £167,000 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer, sustained cuts and bruises as they were thrown about their boat, before it was hit by a huge wave, spun 360 degrees and severely damaged.

After struggling in the cold Atlantic water, the pair issued an urgent plea for help to race organisers, who alerted a container ship that was a few miles away.

As the exhausted rowers attempted to climb a 60ft ladder to the ship, Mr Rees fell into the water.

Retired NHS community physiotherapist Mrs Griffiths said: “After days at sea their legs were very wobbly and when Nick went into the water, going under the boat, Ed thought it would probably be the last of him.

“They eventually managed to get on board and are in good spirits and very thankful to have been rescued."

Mrs Griffiths, who helped raise funds Mr Curtis’ charity drive with the Finghall barrell push and an event in Thornton Watlass, said: “They have had to abandon their damaged boat, which cost £30,000, and the race which they had spent 18 months preparing for.

“After the euphoria of being rescued wears off, Ed is going to be devastated as he had put so much into preparing for it.

"For us, we have had the best Christmas present with Ed being safe."

Mr Rees, 37, of Surrey and Mr Curtis, 38, of North Wales, are now onboard the container ship and expect to arrive in Gibraltar on Sunday (December 22).

The race has seen several of the 16 teams rescued since setting off from La Gomera earlier this month.

Race organisers said yesterday (Wednesday, December 18) a boat rowed by Dan Howie, 28, of Little Smeaton, near Northallerton, and his friend Will North had covered 59 nautical miles in 24 hours and had moved into first place in the pairs section.

A race spokesman said: ''The safety of our crews is of the utmost importance.

''A race support vessel is always on the water offering 24-hour support; safety advisers constantly monitor the fleet, and we work very closely with the maritime authorities in the Canary Islands and Antigua.''

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