OTTAWA, June 9 (Reuters) - The Canadian military launched a rescue mission on Friday to reach several sailing vessels in distress in the mid-Atlantic after high seas and hurricane-strength winds disrupted a sailing race from Britain to the United States.
Two rescue aircraft and three ships as well as two civilian tankers were en route in response to distress calls from three yachts damaged by the storm, the military's Joint Task Force Atlantic said on Twitter.
"At least one vessel is dismasted, with others having rigging and or hull damage," the task force tweeted.
The vessels, carrying one or two sailors each, were sailing from Plymouth, England to Newport, Rhode Island as part of the Royal Western Yacht Club's single-handed and two-handed transatlatic race.
The military said conditions in the mid-Atlantic remain difficult, with 10-15 meter (32-49 feet) seas and 50-70 knot (58-81 mph) winds. Sustained winds of 64 knots or greater are considered hurricane force.
Twenty-one vessels from about a dozen countries began the race, departing Plymouth on May 29, according to the yacht club's website. The races are open to mono and multi-hulled vessels between 27 and 60 feet in length. (Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Alden Bentley)