U.S. Coast Guard Rescues Sailors Competing in International Race

US Navy 090728-N-9860Y-001 The U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Bertholf (WMSL 750), based in Alameda, Calif., maneuvers through Elliot Bay to the Port of Seattle to participate in the 60th annual Seattle Seafair

USCGC Bertholf

It takes determination and guts to embark on a round-the-world race, for almost an entire year and a total of 40,000 miles at sea. It takes even more will to finish the longest leg of the race (from Qindao, China to San Francisco) after your yacht has been pummeled by a wave knocking off your steering wheel and your crew around deck. “The water had so much force in it that it pushed Mark into the helm, snapping the pedestal clean off. We had no steering and crew were falling all over the boat,” said Juan Coetzer, captain of the Geraldton Western Australia (as reported by the Associated Press).

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Saturday, when gale force winds were striking at more than 50 knots, the Geraldton, one of 10 boats competing in The Clipper Round the World Race, was hit hard by the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. Coast Guard sent out its HC-130 Hercules aircraft in attempts at reaching the crew, but fierce winds and waves prevented rescuers from being lowered onto the yacht. Instead they dropped medical supplies onto the boat from the skies and dispatched a cutter (the USCGC Bertholf) based out of Alameda to the scene, approximately 250 miles off San Francisco.

The Coast Guard boat reached the Geraldton on Sunday and rescued two members of the crew, Jane Hitchens (50) and Nik Brbora (29). Hitchens was reported to have broken her ribs and Brbora had apparently injured his pelvis, states Reuters. Others aboard the yacht also sustained injuries, believed to be less severe, but decided to carry on and complete the 5,680-mile leg. The Geraldton Western Australia arrived in San Francisco earlier today, finishing in last place, which is admirable considering they replaced the missing steering wheel with a tiller, had to raise a smaller jib sail and experienced a near fatal episode.

The Clipper’s assistant race director, Justin Taylor, stated he believed Hitchens and Brbora would rejoin their crew in a flash, but it depends if they are cleared medically to resume the race April 14 on the leg headed to Panama City. The final leg is scheduled to finish in July back in the UK.

In 2011 alone, the U.S. Coast Guard was responsible for saving 3,804 lives, according to Captain David McBridge in the USCG’s Newsletter, On Scene. If you are interested in this noble line of work, you can complete Coast Guard Training, if you are between the ages of 17 and 27 and have graduated from high school diploma or have your GED. Working for the Coast Guard is an ideal entry point for career advancement within the Department of Homeland Security. Consider taking a homeland security degree to rise up the ranks within this national department.