Storm hinders rescue of British rowers in Pacific

TOKYO - Heavy seas prevented the early rescue of British adventurer Sarah Outen on Friday, with a nearby cargo ship forced to stand off as a Japanese coastguard boat rushed to the area, an officer said.

A patrol boat was also heading towards fellow Briton Charlie Martell, who was separately attempting to row solo across the Pacific when he was also caught in turbulent seas.

Both rowers were forced to send out distress signals when Tropical storm Mawar churned across the western Pacific off Japan's coast, a Japanese coastguard officer said.

"A cargo ship located Outen's rowboat Gulliver at 12:35 am (0335 GMT). But the ship is being forced to stand off and just monitor the boat due to the turbulent weather," he said, adding a coastguard patrol boat was set to reach her around 4:00 pm (0700 GMT) Friday.

A coastguard plane flew over her rowboat in rough seas about 900 kilometres (560 miles) off the coast of Sendai, northeast of Tokyo, after she called for help on Thursday.

Two helicopters and two planes were keeping her 22-foot (6.75 metre) rowboat under surveillance, after the setback for the Briton, who left a port east of Tokyo on May 13 bound for Vancouver.

"Sarah is bearing up well and demonstrating the strength and resolve that has brought her the huge distance on the journey so far," her support team reported on www.sarahouten.com.

"The request for her first meal back on land in Japan is 'PANCAKES PLS. COLD OJ. GRAPES'."

Meanwhile Martell, who set sail from Choshi, east of Tokyo, on May 5 bound for San Francisco, was under Japan coastguard's surveillance in waters some 1,100 kilometres east of Sendai on Friday morning, the coastguard official said.

A patrol boat was expected to reach him and his rowboat Blossom around noon Saturday (1500 GMT, Friday).

"The ocean in the area is reported to be highly turbulent," the official said.

"Charlie is unhurt and still on-board Blossom," his www.pacific2012.com website reported.

"The storm has not yet subsided, although it appears to be past its peak and winds are soon expected to drop to more manageable levels."

Martell is aiming to claim the record for the fastest crossing of the north Pacific.

Outen, who became the first woman to row solo across the Indian Ocean in 2009, left Britain on April 1 last year on a 30-month expedition under the title London2London: Via the World, which saw her kayak to Europe, cycle across Eurasia then get back in her kayak to Japan.

The global circumnavigation was intended to be continued with a bike ride across North America.

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