Polish Teen Sailors Safe Despite Severe Weather

LONDON -- A group of teenage sailors whose ship was drifting at sea after it lost both masts in gale-force winds is safe from harm, coast guards said Friday, and the vessel was to be towed to a British port for repairs.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said that the Fryderyk Chopin, a tall ship used to train young Polish sailors, is about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Britain's Isles of Scilly. The crew of 47 is mostly made up of 14-year-old cadets.

There have been no injuries reported and the Royal Navy has stood down their search and rescue helicopters, which are returning to base.

Coast guard spokeswoman Fiona Warren said that the crew was still aboard the vessel. "They're probably very uncomfortable, but they're all safe and well," she said.
She said three vessels were already on the scene and that a fourth ship, a trawler, was due there shortly to pull the stricken ship out of harm's way. The weather, she said, had improved since the ship was damaged but was due to get worse within the next 12 hours.

She could not immediately provide an estimate for when the ship would be returned to port.
Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk, in Brussels for a European Union summit, said earlier that he was anxiously following the news about the ship as the vessel has "many young people on board."

"The captain has seen no need to evacuate, so I believe nothing tragic has happened there yet, there is no threat to these people," Tusk told journalists there.

The 182-foot -long Chopin, built in the Polish port city of Gdansk in 1992, is modeled on the fast-moving ships of the age of sail. It made its debut in 1992 in the Columbus Day Regatta across the Atlantic.