British girl tells of ‘horrible’ ordeal as sailing ship sank

By Calvin Palmer

Rescued students and teachers, who spent 42 hours adrift in the South Atlantic after the S.V. Concordia capsized, arrived back in Canada yesterday. Among them were three British girls.

Sarah Calascione,19, Nicole Turner, 18, and 16-year-old Gabriella Haines, were part of a group of more than 40 students students saved by military search planes after their sailboat capsized in the rough waters off the coast of Brazil.

The students had each paid £25,000 to take part in a five-month round-the-world voyage on the  Canadian sailing ship, when the storm struck. The group then spent 40 hours in the life-raft after the ship was tipped over by a “freak” gust of wind.

Calascione, from Kingston-upon-Thames, described the situation as “horrible”.

“I managed to scramble off the ship and I wasn’t injured except for my back,” she explained.

“I had only been on the ship for a couple of weeks and this was supposed to be a five-month adventure.

“My whole dream disappeared in 15 seconds. I’m sad to be leaving my friends.”

All the students and 16 crew members were safely rescued on Friday. Calascione is due to arrive back in London today.

Teacher Mark Sinker, of Trenton, Ontario, described how the 64 people on board the floating classroom, run by West Island College International, jumped into the ocean 300 nautical miles off the coast of Brazil when the three-masted ship capsized.

He described spending the 42 hours in the life-rafts.

“There were low points and high points,” Sinker said. “Certainly when there was water in the raft and people were shivering, morale was low.”

Sinker said he was in the ship’s mess when the Concordia started to sink. It took about half an hour to go down, he said.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Kent was present at Pearson Airport to meet the West Island students.

“I think the government in Brazil deserves a great deal of credit for what they were able to do under the circumstances. We can celebrate there was no life lost.”

An investigation is ongoing into the sinking and why it took so long to rescue the survivors.

William Curry, captain of the Concordia, said he had never experienced such conditions in 40 years of sailing.

“We were halfway en route to Montevideo in Uruguay,” he said. “We had a forecast of gale warnings and thunder showers.

“I have been a sailor since I was 14 but have never experienced anything like this.”

[Based on reports by The Daily Telegraph and Toronto Star.]

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