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Seaborne version of Big Brother hits rock bottom.

CONTESTANTS in a seaborne version of Big Brother got that sinking feeling when reality TV turned all too real - and their tall ship SANK off the coast of Ireland.

Nine wannabe winners in the aptly-named Cabin Fever television show had to be rescued when the ship in which they were confined ran onto the rocks.

Investigations were today underway into how the ship, which was sailing around Ireland, ran aground near Tory Island off the coast of Co Donegal. Crew members on Cabin Fever I sent out a Mayday and rescue services rushed to the scene.

A lifeboat tried to pull the 27-metre ship off the rocks but it soon became apparent that it was too badly damaged and passengers and crew were taken off by helicopter.

One of the contestants, fearful that rescue might come too late, swam from the wreckage to the nearby island.

Cabin Fever had been on air for less than a week when the tall ship ran into trouble. Producers said an alternative boat would be found and the series would continue.

The Big Brother-style show is produced by Coco Productions for Irish broadcaster RTE and involves 10 contestants competing for a pounds 70,000 (100,000 euro) prize.

The ship was due to sail to a number of coastal locations during the eightweek show, including Bangor, Sligo, Galway, Limerick, Cobh and Dublin.

Each week the public votes for their favourite contestant and the person with the least votes is evicted. The show first went to air last Sunday after a few days at sea.

Stuart Switzer of Coco Productions said he had no idea how the accident happened.

'The positive news of this awful story is that all of our contestants are safe,' he said. 'At the end of the day the boat is only wood and metal. It is very sad but our contestants are safe. The programme will go to air and Cabin Fever will continue.'

Clare Duignan, RTE director of programmes, said: 'We are greatly relieved that, most importantly, all the cast and crew are safe and sound. Any programming considerations are absolutely secondary to that.'

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DOWN AND OUT... the ship which sank off the coast of Ireland
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jun 15, 2003
Words:369
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