msnbc.com
updated 2/18/2012 7:50:17 AM ET 2012-02-18T12:50:17

A yacht in the Clipper Round the World race fell victim to heavy weather off the coast of Taiwan Saturday, with injuries to two crew members.

Tim Burgess, 31, an Australian, broke his leg above the knee and Nick Woodward, 55, from the U.K., sustained a head injury when he was thrown across the crew accommodation.

Both were on the leading yacht, Gold Coast Australia, at the time.

Several attempts were made by a Taiwan coast guard helicopter and a coast guard vessel to take the two men off the yacht, but these failed because of the bad weather.

"Unfortunately the helicopter could not effect a successful rescue and so a Taiwan Coast Guard vessel was dispatched," yacht skipper Richard Hewson said via satellite phone to the Clipper Race Office in Gosport, U.K., according to an emailed statement sent to breakingnews.com.

"After attempting to come alongside the Coast Guard vessel I made the decision that the transfer would be too dangerous due to the wind, swell and sea state," he added.

The casualties were transfered to a launch outside Keelung Port, near Taiwan, then taken to hospital by ambulance.

Strong headwinds and high waves had hit the yacht as it navigated the leg of the race from Singapore to Qingdao, China. That part of the journey is considered one of the most challenging legs.

Dutch yacht diverts
A Dutch yacht taking part in the race, De Lage Landan, which has two doctors on board, was eight miles away when the accident happened and changed course to try to help.

It moved alongside the Gold Coast Australia to provide assistance, but the rough conditions again halted the attempt to treat the injured sailor.

Gold Coast Australia has led since the beginning of the amateur race and was expected to quickly regain ground on its competitors, who continued to race.

"I would like to offer my thanks to De Lage Landen for their support and wish them the best for the rest of the race," Hewson said in a posting on the race's website.

The website showed De Lage Landen in first place in the race as Gold Coast Australia diverted to northern Taiwan.

Breakingnews.com staff contributed to this report.

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