A major rescue operation has taken place in the Atlantic after the OSTAR and TWOSTAR fleets were battered by "extreme conditions". One yacht has been abandoned and another dismasted while others have retired from the races

One yacht has sunk and another has been abandoned after a storm hit the OSTAR and TWOSTAR fleet in the North Atlantic.

The races organisers, the Royal Western Yacht Club (RWYC), said in a media release that “extreme conditions caused damage to many boats with three emergency beacons (EPIRB) triggered”.

Luxury ocean liner, the Queen Mary 2, had to rescue OSTAR participant Melvyn Wheatley, after he issued a mayday when his yacht, Tamarind, suffered severe damage after a knockdown smashed a porthole, causing water to flood the yacht.

Race participants have said they were facing 15-metre waves and 60-knot winds as a result of the area of low depression, which hit some of the OSTAR and TWOSTAR fleet in the early hours of yesterday (6 June).

There are no reports of any injuries.

Wheatley, 73, has since scuttled Tamarind so it would not be a danger to shipping. He is now on his way to Halifax.

Speaking to the BBC, his wife, Penny, said her husband was down below “when the mast went under water”.

“It meant everything was thrown across the cabin and he thinks some plywood went through the porthole and in came the water,” she said.

“He is fine, just tired. He has never lost another boat. The last 36 hours have been a nightmare, because she could have gone down with him on board. There’s no way he would have survived on a life-raft in those conditions,” she added.

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Meanwhile, the Bulgarian crew of Furia, Mihail Kopanov and Dian Zaykov, who were taking part in the TWOSTAR, had to be rescued by the survey vessel Thor Magna after their Luffe 37-09 sank.

The Dutch TWOSTAR crew of the Sunfast 37, Happy, Wytse Bouma and Jaap Barendregt were picked up by the ocean going tug, Apl Forward after their yacht dismasted.

Two other British OSTAR racers have also retired. Keith Walton on board the Najad 490, Harmoni is heading to the Azores after suffering mainsail and track damage.

While, Peter Crowther on board his Swan 38, Suomi Kudu, has mainsail problems and is heading back to the UK

All other competitors are safe but are still experiencing a 10-15 metre swell.

No injuries have been reported.

The transatlantic races involve 22 boats made up of solo sailors and crews of two, racing race from Plymouth to Newport, Rhode Island in the US. They left the UK on 29 May.

The rescue operation was co-ordinated by the Canadian coastguard in Halifax.  An RAF C-130 Hercules aircraft was sent from the UK to help by providing top cover and communications assistance.

The Royal Western Yacht Club thanked the coastguard, saying they “immediately reacted to the situation sending ships and air support to all the boats in distress.”

“The RWYC would like to thank all personnel at the Halifax Coastguard for their immediate and magnificent response to this emergency situation. All seafarers owe them a debt of gratitude,” added the Plymouth-based club.