Stricken Polish sailing ship heads to Britain

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A Polish sailing ship carrying dozens of teenage cadets was set to arrive at a British port Monday three days after getting caught up in storms that broke off both its masts, coastguards said.

The Fryderyk Chopin, carrying a 47-strong crew, was being towed to the English coast by a fishing trawler that responded to the ship's call for help Friday.

The tall ship, whose crew includes 36 cadets aged between 14 and 16, sent out a distress signal after getting stranded about 100 miles (160 kilometres) southwest of the Isles of Scilly, off the southwest English coast.

One of its masts broke in a severe gale and the second mast came down later. A coastguard spokesman described the boat as "really quite a mess."

It was approaching Falmouth, southwest England, late Sunday and was due to arrive early the next day in a nearby bay, where it would wait until first light, Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesman Fred Caygill said.

The Frederyk Chopin would then be brought into the harbour and other boats would come out to take those aboard to land, said Caygill.

The rescue boats would "go and pick up the the crew and passengers and then transfer them to land where they will be met by the coastguard," said the spokesman.

Local officials and Polish embassy staff would then take over care of them, but everyone on board the vessel was fine, he added.

Attempts by the fishing boat, the Nova Spero, to tow the ship to land were slowed down by continued bad weather over the weekend, said the coastguard.

© 2010 AFP

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