Rough seas delay yacht rescue

Monday 02nd Apr 2012 by theWeather Club

Image: Tina Lamb

US Coast Guard crews are waiting for a window of calm weather before sending a helicopter to take three British and one Australian crew member injured in a storm from their yacht about 640km off the California coast. The yacht, Geraldton Western Australia, participating in the Round the World Yacht Race was hit by a large wave on Saturday, knocking out its steering mounting and injuring four crew members who suffered back, rib and pelvic problems.

Juan Coetzer, skipper of the yacht, spoke of the dramatic events: "We were racing along in 45-70 mph gusts. The sea was alive with rage. We were making good speed, sailing with the third reef in the main, surfing at 20-25 mph. Then at our watch change, just before the sun came up, a monstrous foaming swell broke over our stern."

The crew members injured in the event were Jane Hitchens, 50, from Kent with suspected broken ribs; 47-year-old Mark Burkes from Worcestershire with a back injury; Max Wilson, 62, from Queensland has two suspected cracked or broken ribs; and Nik Brbora, a 28-year-old software engineer who lives in London, has a possible pelvic sprain.

The US Coast Guard spokesman says the Coast Guard cutter Bertholf with a helicopter on board was within range of the yacht, but could not send a rescue crew to the stricken vessel because of the weather conditions on Sunday afternoon. A long-range Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules search and rescue aircraft based in Sacramento has flown to the scene and dropped medical supplies, but earlier plans to drop a parajumper rescue team were called off because of the weather. The yacht was proceeding under secondary steering toward San Francisco Bay until a full rescue can be made.