(Reuters) - The Coast Guard rescued two seriously injured British crew members from an Australian yacht taking part in an around-the-world race on Sunday after it was hit by a huge wave in the Pacific.
Four of 13 crew members, three of them Britons and the other an Australian, were hurt when the wave hit the Geraldton Western Australia on Saturday about 400 nautical miles off the Californian coast.
The wave disabled the yacht's main steering and some of its communications equipment, Coast Guard and race officials said.
It was one of 10 boats competing in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race that started in Britain.
It had been sailing to San Francisco from China and was still about two hundred miles from its San Francisco Bay destination, using emergency steering, on Sunday evening, but was expected to reach port within a day, race organizers said.
Coast Guard spokesman Barry Bena said severe weather had made it impossible for a rescue helicopter to take the two most seriously hurt crew members off the yacht directly and they were transported to a Coast Guard cutter by small boat.
Skipper Juan Coetzer identified the four injured crew as Britons Jane Hitchins, a 50-year-old doctor from Kent, Nik Brbora, a 29-year-old software engineer from London, Mark Burkes, 47, from Worcestershire, and 62-year-old Australian Max Wilson from Queensland.
DeeDee Taft, a spokeswoman for the Western Australia team, said Hitchins and Brbora were the two injured sailors taken off the yacht by the Coast Guard. Hitchins was the most seriously hurt, suffering at least one broken rib and a punctured lung, a Coast Guard official said.
In a statement on the race website, Coetzer said the yacht had been making good speed, "Then at our watch change, just before the sun came up, a monstrous foaming swell broke over our stern."
A long-range Coast Guard HC-130 plane dropped medical supplies to the vessel on Saturday.
The yacht was expected to reach port at Oakland sometime on Monday afternoon, the Coast Guard said. Officials said the other nine yachts had completed this leg of the race.
(Reporting by David Bailey and Erik Tavcar; editing by David Brunnstrom)