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100ft wave broke all over a yacht in the pacific

14 April 2012

YACHT drama mum Jane Hitchins broke her back, ribs, punctured her lung and ruptured her spleen after being crushed by a 100ft wave in a round-the-world race, as reported yesterday by Claire McWethy from this is Kent.
The moment when Jane Hitchins was plucked to safety
from the Geraldton Western Australia
Photo: US Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf

In her first interview after the disaster in the Pacific Ocean she said: "I saw the most enormous wave. I can only describe it as like a big tongue of water.

"It was quite narrow but very, very tall. It was so big, it tipped the boat on to its nose and then the wave broke all over the boat.

"There were thousands of other big waves out there but that one just happened to have my name on it."

Mrs Hitchins, 50, who lives in The Street, Boughton, was speaking from her hospital bed in San Francisco.

She said: "I was pinned by the water, which was very scary. I had a big metal bar behind my back and a big metal cage across my front.

"I remember thinking I had broken my back, which, as it turned out, I had.

"I was under water and screaming. As the wave retracted, I was sucked out with it and rolled towards the back of the boat.

"I thought I was drowning. I didn't think I was going to come up."

Despite her injuries, doctors believe she will make a full recovery.

The mum-of-two had taken a year off from her work as an occupational health consultant at Kent and Canterbury Hospital, to compete in the 40,000-mile Clipper Round-the-World Yacht Race. The giant wave hit her boat on Saturday, March 31.

She added: "It was a relief to realise I was still alive and then a relief to be rescued by the coastguard.

"But once in hospital, I had a difficult night when I realised it could have been an awful lot worse."

Mrs Hitchins was one of four crew injured on the Geraldton Western Australia. She was plucked to safety by the US coastguard, along with fellow sailor Nik Brbora from London, who was later discharged.

Mrs Hitchins' neighbour Jill Lebor, 64, has been e-mailing Jane in hospital. She said: "I heard about it on the news. When I realised it was her boat and that she was the most seriously injured, I couldn't believe it.

"Jane said they had just changed watch on board. She was unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time but incredibly lucky to have survived.

"She has cracked vertebrae so is in a lot of pain but she can walk. Her lung is being drained. Because of her injuries, she can't fly back but wants to get a train to New York to get a boat home from there. It won't be a sailing boat, though!

"She says she is looking forward to putting her feet up in front of the fire with her labrador dog, Doug. I think she's had enough adventure for the time being."

Two other injured crewmen remained on board until the yacht docked in San Francisco on Wednesday, April 4. Max Wilson, 62, from Queensland, Australia has a suspected broken rib and Mark Burkes, 47, from Worcestershire escaped with a sore back.

The team finished last in the penultimate leg of the 11-month race, which started in Southampton last July. The race is resumed today, April 14.