By Mike Rowbottom

sara g_31-01-12January 31 - The brother of one of the six rowers rescued from their Atlantic crossing after their boat, Sara G, capsized has told insidethegames of the family's fears as they waited for news after hearing that they had gone "off the radar."

The boat came to grief 27 days into its voyage from Tarfaya in Morocco to Port St Charles in Barbados, and just 520 miles from its destination.

Falmouth coastguards, who were coordinating the rescue operation with authorities in Martinique, said the six men had been picked up at 1.10am by the Nord Taipei, a Panamanian-flagged cargo ship due to reach Gibraltar on February 9.

"My first thought was that they were going to be gutted about not finishing," said Alistair Brown, younger brother of 37-year-old crew member Simon Brown.

"There was a sense of disbelief, because they were so close to finishing.

"Everyone on board thought they were going to make it.

"They were supposed to have done the hard part already.

"But as more news came through it became clear that they could be in a serious position and it was obviously really worrying."

Brown, 31, who teaches at Bedford Modern School, was coaching the school's first rowing eight on Monday afternoon when his mother, Janet, rang him to let him know that the crew – who had been reporting regularly on their progress on Heart FM radio station, for whom they were raising money as part of the Have A Heart Appeal – had "gone off the radar".

Atlanta Odyessey_challenge
"I told her it would be fine," he said.

"But when we heard later that night that they were sitting in a dinghy in the middle of the Atlantic, it was not the best news.

"We didn't know how bad the weather was, or even if there might have been sharks around.

"The coordinators of the crossing back home had got in touch with Simon's wife, Jo, and told her that they had lost radar contact with the boat.

"They said it was most likely to be a technical problem, but that as a matter of protocol they were sending a plane to search for them.

"Jo got really worried, and she managed to find out that they were in their life raft, and then that all the crew members had been picked up by a merchant ship.

"They were really lucky that a ship was passing so close to them at the time.

"There was no guarantee.

"They could have been out there in their dinghy for days.

"One of the crew, Ian Rowe, apparently managed to get a message to his wife to say that they had been hit by a really massive wave which had flipped the boat over.

"I can only assume the boat was damaged in the process, maybe the rudder, otherwise the obvious thing would have been to turn it flip it back over and get back in.

"We haven't heard from Simon yet and we aren't expecting any contact soon."

Simon Brown_on_Atlantic_challenge
Two months ago Alistair, a former British lightweight rower, had rowed in a quadruple scull at the Head of the River Fours along with Simon (pictured during the Atlantic crossing), older brother James, who is also a former GB lightweight rower, and their father Jim, who recently stepped down as captain of Bradford on Avon RC aged 63.

The race had been a part of Simon's preparation for the Atlantic challenge, when he and five others including current world record holder Matt Craughwell planned to break the crossing record of 30 days.

The crew referred to their challenge as "rowing's very own four-minute mile" and were raising money for ChildLine.

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