The Guardian identified the pair as Tom Sauer, 23, Dutch-Russian, and Tom Fancett, also 23, British. The U.K.'s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which coordinated the rescue with the 1,072-passenger luxury ship, said the two were racing the 7.3-meter PS Vita from the Canary Islands to Barbados as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (TWAC).
In a message posted on the TWAC Web site, Sauer explained how he and TeamTom co-member Fancett were changing places in the boat when suddenly they were "rocked by an enormous wave, the size of which [they had] never seen before."
"Our boat was thrown over and capsized. The cabin flooded." The Toms managed to get into their life raft as they watched the PS Vita sink.
According to the MCA, Falmouth Coastguard received an alert from an emergency locator beacon some 480 miles southwest of the Canaries, after which the Coastguard sent an alert to all vessels in the area. Crystal Serenity, which was also on a transatlantic voyage (from Europe to the Caribbean), was the closest, at about 120 miles out. The ship changed course and steamed through the night to reach the stranded rowers, who posted on the TWAC Web site that they floated for some 10 hours.
Cruise Critic readers have provided firsthand accounts of the rescue. "Unreal evening!" posted either-oar on the message boards. "[Early] this morning, the ship was way off course with spotlights on the water. Eventually we located an inflatable raft with two souls aboard (screaming their heads off). We hung over the rail and watched the entire rescue. I can't imagine what their fate could have been."
"The Captain and crew did a remarkable job rescuing these two men, who are now in the shops getting clothes," added marienbad, who also witnessed the event. TeamTom and Crystal Serenity are now en route to St. Maarten, where the ship is expected to arrive Sunday as originally scheduled. We've contacted the West Coast-based Crystal for comment, but have not heard back at the time of publication.
--by Dan Askin, News Editor