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The adventures of Tom Sauer

Tom Sauer

Two Toms, who set out in an 8 metre row boat in a bid to be the second-youngest pair ever to make the journey from the Canary Islands to Barbados , have been rescued from a life-raft after their boat capsized eight days into their challenge.

Tom Fancett

St Andrews student Tom Sauer and his friend Tom Fancett, from London, were taking part in the 2011 Atlantic Ocean Rowing Race; departing (December 4, 2011) from the Spanish port of San Sebastian de la Gomera in the Canary Islands and following what’s known as the Columbus route, west-bound across the mid-Atlantic to Port St Charles.

They were picked up by a cruise ship nearly 500 miles south-west of the islands early on Wednesday (December 13, 2011), having been forced to abandon their boat which was struck by “an enormous wave” at approximately 8 pm.

Sauer told how the pair were changing places in the boat when disaster struck:

“The ocean was quite calm. We were in great spirits after the first eight days in the race. Suddenly our boat was rocked by an enormous wave, the size of which we’ve never seen before. Our boat was thrown over and capsized. The cabin flooded.

“We desperately tried to turn the boat back up again but to no avail. In fact our PS Vita/Team Tom boat started to sink. We managed to get the life raft and life jackets out during some very nervous and difficult moments. We entered the life raft and saw our dream literally sink in the ocean.”

Falmouth coastguard co-ordinated the rescue after the Team Tom’s emergency beacon was triggered at 7.54pm, 480 miles from the Canary islands. The nearest ship, the Bahamian-registered cruise ship Crystal Serenity was 120 miles away.

Mr Sauer and Mr Fancett spent the night on their emergency life raft, buffeted by waves up to 10ft high as they waited for rescue. They were recovered at six o’clock this morning after sending up another flare which was seen seven miles away by Crystal Serenity.

The boys’ most recent Facebook update says:

“We are both alive and well. After 10 hours in our life-raft we were picked up by a cruise liner heading for St. Maarten. We are both very grateful that events turned out this way and for all the messages of support we have received since the capsize and subsequent rescue.”

A spokesperson for the University of St Andrews said:

“We are very glad to hear that the two Toms are safe and well. Their endeavour was a perfect example of the St Andrews spirit of courage and ambition. Equally it is the St Andrews way never to see an unexpected outcome as a failure, but as an opportunity to ask ‘what have I discovered that I didn’t set out to discover?’. We hope the two Toms are undeterred from taking on future challenges and are sure their families will be glad that they are safe and dry for Christmas!”

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