Two Minnesota rowers taking part in an endurance race across the Pacific Ocean from the coast of California to Hawaii are finished several days into a quest that was expected to take more than a month and 2,000-plus miles at the oars.

The boat of Ryan Foss and Erin Hammer, who make up the Endurance Limits USA team, briefly capsized Saturday morning in a big wave before the vessel righted itself. Hammer broke her wrist during the ordeal. By Monday morning, the two were evacuated by Coast Guard helicopter back to California and sent to a hospital in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Speaking Tuesday from Santa Barbara, Foss said their 23-foot boat capsized 200 miles out to sea, in 35-knot winds, with waves cresting more than 10 feet.

“It was crazy out there, but we were confident,” he said. “Then it happened ... It was a killer wave out of nowhere. We were positioned wrong and went over. I think Erin got tangled in something as the boat righted itself.”

Foss added: “We expected to capsize at some point. But Erin broke her wrist in a bunch of spots. And what (stinks) is you can’t row a boat with a broken wrist.”

Foss and Hammer contacted the race’s medical team, set her wrist in a splint, and as the reality of their predicament became clear, Foss said they turned to two tasks: arranging evaluation of Hammer and rearranging the boat for Foss to continue solo, and row their boat to Hawaii.

That plan ended Monday morning with the arrival of the Coast Guard helicopter. They were told that solo rowers weren’t allowed, and at 11 a.m. (9 a.m. local time) Monday — after a week of rowing, and 1,900 nautical miles from Honolulu — their race was over. Six of the original eight boats, which set out June 4, are still at sea. This was the report from race officials:

“After on-going conversations with our medical consultants and race support, it was determined that the safest option would be to get Erin to a hospital for treatment as soon as possible. At 09:00 local time (Monday) morning, the United States Coastguard deployed an M860 Jayhawk United States Coastguard helicopter to the position of Mugatu. The Great Pacific Race support vessel Galen Diana was in the area standing by. Both team members were picked up by the helicopter due to protocol, and they arrived at Santa Barbara Airport were Erin was then taken to hospital for treatment. Erin has now been released.”

“We raised a lot of money (for several children’s hospitals), but there were so many people who were pulling for us,” Foss said. “This is hard, very hard. We really worked to stay in the race, so it hurts. But it’s been so busy, we haven’t had time to cry yet.”

The immediate concern of Foss and Hammer: Their boat. It is bobbing, sea anchor deployed, 200 miles out in the Pacific Ocean. Foss said that boat salvage operators want as much as $20,000 to fetch a boat that far out. So, the current plan is for Foss to partner with another rower who had to leave the race earlier, and hitch a ride back out to the boat.

“It might not be so bad,” Foss said. “We’ll crank up the tunes and row home.”

Find a Star Tribune feature story on Foss and Hammer here.


Freelance writer Tony Brown contributed to this report.