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BRITISH ROWERS RESCUED

Wednesday June 04, 2003

Last Updated: 19:54 UK

Two British rowers have been rescued by the Australian navy after one of them was badly injured and their boat damaged as they attempted to cross the Indian Ocean.

Mike Noel-Smith and Rob Abernethy were picked up in darkness by dinghies from the frigate HMAS Newcastle.

Both men were said to be 'relieved'.

Mr Noel-Smith's wife Buffy told Sky News: "He's fine. He'll be looked at once he's had a shower."

Her husband is said to have serious head injuries after his boat Transventure was battered by 25ft waves during severe storms at the weekend.

It was just 200 nautical miles into the men's 4,000-mile journey from Australia to Reunion Island, east of Madagascar.

The storms ripped off the boat's rudder, safety rail and stabilising device and left 45-year-old Mr Noel-Smith drifting in and out of consciousness.

The rowers had hoped to beat the 64-day unofficial record for the journey while raising 250,000 for research into bacterial meningitis.

A few hours before the rescue they had been thrown provisions by an oil tanker which was diverted to check on their condition.

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