Two sailors were plucked from Lake Ontario early Thursday morning after spending almost six hours clinging to their capsized sailboat wrapped in a sail to keep warm.

The sailors, Charlie Macchia and Gord Sparrey, left the Westwood Sailing club near Cherry Beach in a 16-foot catamaran at about 5 p.m. on Wednesday. The boat flipped at 7:30 and they were found at 1:30 a.m.

They filed a sailing plan with the club with plans to sail to Humber Bay, located about 10 kilometres away in the city's west end. When they failed to return at the scheduled time of 9 p.m., police were called and family members waited by the phone for information.

A Hercules C-130 plane and several Toronto police boats performed a grid search of the lake. The overturned catamaran was spotted and the C-130 dropped flares.

Police boats rushed to the location and found the men atop the canopy of the overturned vessel. Both were wrapped in the boat's sail to stay warm.

Wind causes boat to flip

Sparrey told CBC News that a gust of wind caused the boat to flip over.

"When the catamaran when over, I got stuck underneath the trampoline for about a minute and so that caused it to fill with water," he said. "So by the time I got out, we couldn't right it again."


The men were sailing in a catamaran similar to this one. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

The sailors had flares on board, but no VHF radio.

"We ended up just wrapping ourselves in one of the sails because we knew we weren't going anywhere anyway," said Sparrey. "And we were lucky enough to wait and the plane obviously saw us going overhead and dropped some flares."

The men were were wearing wet suits and suffered no serious injuries.

Macchia told CBC their preparation and lessons learned in sailing courses was key to the successful rescue. 

"When the police came and found us, we were warm," he said. "The lake is your friend until it isn't. When you go out there in challenging conditions, you come prepared."  

"If we had to spend the night it would have been bad. We would have got through it but it wouldn't have been fun."

Gord Sparrey's father, Norm Sparrey, thanked Toronto police marine unit.

"I'm a little weak at the moment, weak at the knees," he said. "The marine unit was fantastic, they kept us informed."