Royal Navy warship rescues crew after yacht becomes stranded in Atlantic Ocean

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Fourteen sailors have been rescued by the crew of a Royal Navy warship after their racing yacht was stranded for 48 hours in the Atlantic Ocean.

The 60ft Clyde Challenger yacht lost its mast in the turbulent waters as it was returning from the Azores, in the mid-Atlantic, to the UK and the crew waited 20 hours for HMS Dragon to reach them.

The Type 45 destroyer was diverted 500 miles from a routine deployment to rescue the crew, travelling at 30 knots to arrive at the yacht's position - some 610 miles south west of Land's End - at around 2.30pm on Saturday.

The operation concluded at around 5pm and all crew members were said to be "alive and well".

They were treated for minor injuries and given hot food and the chance to call their families once on board the vessel.

The Challenger, which is normally berthed in the Clyde Estuary, in Scotland, could not be recovered. 

Petty Officer Max Grosse, the Chief Bosun's Mate on board HMS Dragon, said: "When we arrived on scene it was clear the yacht had lost its mast and looked in a pretty desperate state after nearly 48 hours drifting in the challenging conditions.

"We were however hugely relieved to see all 14 crew alive and well.

"Despite racing through the night we only had three hours of daylight remaining in which to safely remove the crew.

"HMS Dragon is fitted with two large sea boats capable of carrying six passengers each.

"We were able to use both boats to transfer the crew as quickly as possible.

"The prevailing weather conditions and notorious Atlantic swell made it enormously challenging though and really tested the skills of my experienced sea boat coxswains." 

The Clyde Challenger, which is owned by Lewis Learning Ltd, was designed and built to compete in the Clipper round-the-world yacht race and is also used for corporate, private and charity charters, according to its website.

Updates on the travel company's Facebook page said the crew reported a problem with the yacht's rudder late on Thursday evening and steering was affected.

They were aided by another vessel and a cargo ship and reported they had made a temporary rudder on Friday morning but damage to the mast and sails meant they were "unusable" and on Friday afternoon it was decided the crew needed rescuing.

A statement said: "We are delighted to report that a UK Navy vessel has successfully transferred all 14 crew members from Clyde Challenger.

"They are all safely onboard and under the care of her majesty's naval Service.

"We are extremely grateful for this news and extend huge thanks to all those involved in standing over the yacht, organising and executing the safe transfer of the crew."