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British Couple Survive Ocean Storm

February 17, 1998

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ A British couple clung to a rock in the Southern Ocean south of Tasmania overnight after their yacht was destroyed in a ferocious storm.

Australian Search And Rescue spokesman David Gray said today he was ``quite staggered″ that Peter and Doreen Cheek had survived. ``They are extremely, extremely lucky to be alive,″ he said.

He said the Cheeks sent out a mayday signal at 2:30 a.m. today after their 39-foot yacht Talis II began dragging anchor near Maatsuyker Island, 18 miles south of Tasmania. A rescue helicopter spotted the couple soon after first light and winched them to safety about 7 a.m.

The couple had tried to get to shelter but their propeller became fouled by kelp. As their boat smashed against the rocks, they escaped in a dinghy, which later overturned in the huge swells.

``They swam to a rock and pulled themselves up with kelp, and then they clung there,″ Gray said.

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