Coast Guard Aids Injured Crew In Yacht Race From China To San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — U.S. Coast Guard crews are waiting for the weather to improve before sending a helicopter to take three sailors injured in a storm from a yacht about 400  miles off the California coast.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Caleb Critchfield said a Coast Guard cutter with a helicopter is within range of the yacht, but could not say when crews will be able to launch it.

The U.S. Coast Guard dropped medical supplies Saturday night to the injured boaters.

Three of the 13 crew members aboard the 68-foot Geraldton Western Austrial were injured Saturday when a large wave struck the boat, which is competing in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race, according to race officials. The wave also swept away some of the boat’s steering mounting and wheel and some communications equipment.

Coast Guard officials said the three wounded boaters suffered a range of injuries from suspected cracked or broken ribs to possible pelvic and back injuries.

On Saturday evening, the U.S. Coast Guard dispatched a C-130 aircraft from Fairfield manned by National Guard parajumpers to search for the boat and rescue the injured crewmembers, said Petty Officer Levi Read.

At about 7 p.m., the Coast Guard crew located the yacht roughly 400 miles west of San Francisco.

Crew members dropped medical supplies to the boaters below but due to weather conditions, parajumpers were unable to descend to the yacht and the aircraft had to return to base to refuel, Read said.

Next, he said, “Plan B was put into place.”

Later Saturday night, the Coast Guard diverted the Bertholf cutter ship and sent out a rescue helicopter from San Diego, both of which were en route to the yacht’s location as of 3 a.m., according to Read.

The cutter ship is expected to be within range of the yacht around 8 a.m., and the rescue operation will likely occur at about 10 a.m.

“The main objective will be to get to the three injured people, evaluate them and see if there are any injuries that haven’t been reported,” Read said.

Anyone else who wishes to leave the yacht will also be rescued.

Although the yacht now has some steering problems, it continues to make its way back toward the Bay Area at about 9 mph, the officer said.

Race officials said that as of about 5:45 p.m. Friday, about four of the participating 10 yachts had finished the sixth leg of the around-the-world race, from China to the U.S., and had docked at Jack London Square in Oakland. The boats are scheduled to depart on the next leg on April 14.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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