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Sailing junk on quest for record sinks off Suao, all crew safe

Sailing junk on quest for record sinks off Suao, all crew safe

Taipei, April 26 (CNA) A Hong Kong-registered Chinese sailing junk, Princess Taiping, sank off the northeastern Taiwan fishing port of Suao early Sunday morning after it was struck by an unknown foreign freighter, the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) reported.
The Princess Taiping is a rebuilt Ming Dynasty sailing junk that set sail from the northeastern Taiwan harbor of Keelung last June on an ambitious, engineless cross-Pacific voyage.
When it sank, it was only a few hours, or roughly 42 nautical miles, from completing the 10-month round trip challenge, as it was scheduled to pull into Keelung's Bisha Fishing Port later in the day.
All 11 crew members aboard the sailing junk -- Taiwanese Captain Liu Ning-sheng, six Americans, two Japanese, one Taiwanese and one mainland Chinese -- were rescued in a Taiwan joint rescue operation after they sent out an S-O-S call around 3: 40 a.m. Sunday. Shortly after the distress call was sent, the vessel sank at a location about 30 nautical miles off Suao.
The crew members were rescued by two helicopters dispatched by the National Rescue Center, and 10 of them were taken to two military hospitals in Taipei City for treatment at around 8 a.m. Liu, who sustained slight head injuries, was taken to Veterans General Hospital in Suao.
Two of the crew members had serious injuries to the head and neck, respectively, while the others were receiving treatment for hypothermia, according to CGA officials.
Some of the crew said that during the chaos after the junk was hit at around 2: 40 a.m., they spotted the name of the freighter as Champion Express.
A check of the maritime charts by the Suao-based CGA found that a vessel named Champion Express was indeed in the area at that time.
Radar records showed that the freighter, which was heading north before it rammed into the Princess Taiping, made an abrupt turn in a westerly direction after the sailing junk broke in two. The ship then turned northward and fled, the records showed.
The Princess Taiping put out from Keelung's Bisha Fishing Port on June 26, 2008 and had made port calls in Japan, the west coast of the United States, Hawaii and Saipan over the past 10 months.
It departed from Naha, Okinawa Saturday for Taiwan and was scheduled to return to Bisha later Sunday to complete a cross-Pacific voyage that would have set a record as the first by a rebuilt Ming Dynasty sailing junk without mechanical power.
Liu, 62, a local yacht skipper, became the first Taiwanese to accomplish a round-the-world voyage by yacht in 2001, completing the feat in 877 days.
(By Deborah Kuo)