US Coastguard ship dispatched

Four crew members, participating in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, have been in injured by a huge wave crashing into their boat in the Pacific Ocean.

A US Coastguard ship is moving to Geraldton Western Australia to assist the injured sailors and paramedics will decide if they need airlifting off the boat by helicopter.

Race director Jonathan Bailey told the BBC that it was initially thought all four would need airlifting, but it now appears that only one or two will.

The four injured crew members – three Britons and an Australian – sustained the injuries in a storm 400 miles of the Californian coast.

Jane Hitchens from Kent, who is the onboard medic, has four suspected broken ribs and possible internal injuries, Nik Brbora from London has a possible pelvic sprain, Mark Burkes from Worcestershire has injured his back and Max Wilson from Queensland, Australia has two suspected cracked or broken ribs.

Mr Bailey said the crew ‘took the full force of the wave’.

Dr Hitchens is probably the worst injured and oxygen has been dropped onto the deck to help her with breathing difficulties, Mr Bailey said, but he added that she is well enough to diagnose the other casualties.

Juan Coetzer, skipper of Geraldton Western Australia, said: ‘We were racing along in 40-60 knot gusts. The sea was alive with rage. We were making good speed, sailing with the third reef in the main.

‘Then at our watch change a monstrous foaming swell broke over our stern. Mark Burkes was on the helm at the time. The water had so much force in it that it pushed Mark into the helm, snapping the pedestal clean off.

‘We had no steering and crew were falling all over the boat. Quickly we got the emergency steering in place.

Then the third reef blew, so the storm jib went up and we pulled down the remains of our main sail, tidied up the boat and the treated the wounded. In the afternoon a Coast Guard plane flew by and dropped us some extra supplies.’