The ORS Int. is the official adjudicator of ocean rowing records for Guinness World Records



By Dale Paget

June 5 2003

GOLD COAST, June 5 AAP - Billing two British rowers for the cost of being rescued by the Australian navy would stifle the spirit of adventure around the world, the Ocean Rowing Society said today.

HMAS Newcastle early today rescued former soldiers Rob Abernethy, 31, and badly-injured Mike Noel-Smith, 45, who were stranded in the Indian Ocean 2,170km off Western Australia.

According to Ocean Rowing Society executive director Kenneth Crutchlow, since 1966 more than 70 rowing attempts have ended in rescues and seven rowers have died.

"You just never know how they will turn out - that's why they call it an adventure," he told AAP today.

"I am aware there are those people who say, from the comfort of their armchair, `these people should not be allowed to row oceans or climb mountains or cross deserts' - to these people I say, it is the nature of man to seek adventure it has always been so and will forever be so."

Mr Crutchlow said under international agreements the Australian navy should cover the cost of picking up the rowers.

"Anyone who goes to sea and hits the EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon) is picked up. No one ever gets a bill," he said.

"Otherwise, everyone sits at home. Is the answer sit at home and go nowhere? We don't believe that - you've got to go out and have a go."

The rowers were trying to beat a 64-day record for the Indian Ocean crossing from Carnarvon in WA to Reunion Island, east of Madagascar.

The attempt was abandoned on Saturday night when Noel-Smith was knocked unconscious and suffered serious head injuries.

The Newcastle was diverted from routine duties near the Cocos Islands.

The Australian Defence Force today declined to estimate the cost of the rescue.