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Surviving on ‘sheer willpower’

DEC. 20 - Two men who spent 11 days adrift on a life raft were rescued Saturday off Vietnam. The 65-foot yacht they were transporting from Hong Kong to Australia sank in the East China Sea.

With only a sponge and an oar, skipper Mark W. Smith, who is 49 and of Australia, and first mate Steven J. Freeman, 30, of New Zealand, licked rainwater from the sides of their raft and were forced to drink their urine to survive, news reports say. The raft also apparently capsized a number of times in bad weather.

“We battled for our lives with almost nothing,” Smith says in a report. “It was just sheer willpower that kept us alive.”

Within only a day after setting off, one of the yacht’s engines gave out and the seas become rough, according to reports. Smith decided to head back to Hong Kong, but a wave came over the bow and reportedly smashed a hole in the hull. The boat sank in about 60 seconds, Smith said.

Vietnamese fishermen rescued the men Saturday off Ly Son Island. They were taken to a hospital on the island where they were being treated.

Jason Fell