Coast Guard to the Rescue of Geraldton Western Australia - NBC Bay Area

Coast Guard to the Rescue of Geraldton Western Australia

Geraldton Western Australia was on race to San Francisco. "We had no steering and crew were falling all over the boat," the captain said.



    Four sailors were injured when they hit rough seas in the Pacific Ocean, while participating in a yacht race around the world. (Published Monday, April 2, 2012)

    Two of the injured sailors,  a 67-year old man and a 50-year old woman, who were participating in an around-the-world race were transferred from their storm damaged yacht to the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf, approximately 250 miles offshore Sunday night.

    Both vessels are now on their way to the Golden Gate. Attempts to airlift the injured sailors have been called off and replaced with a water rescue. 

    Both the cutter and the sailboat are expected to arrive at port late Monday afternoon.

    The rest of the crew of the Geraldton Western Australia will remain on-board as the 68-foot sailboat makes its way to Jack London Square in Oakland, minus its main steering system.

    Coast Guard crews' attempts to airlift the injured sailors over the weekend was thwarted by weather until Sunday night.

    The Geraldton Western Australia was competing in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race when it was struck by a large wave early Saturday morning.
    Juan Coetzer, skipper of the Geraldton Western Australia yacht, explained what happened when the wave hit.

    “We were racing along in 40-60 knot gusts. The sea was alive with rage. We were making good speed, sailing with the third reef in the main, surfing at 15 - 20 knots. Then at our watch change, just before the sun came up, a monstrous foaming swell broke over our stern. Mark Burkes was on the helm at the time. 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.

    “Quickly we got the emergency steering in place. Then the third reef blew, so the storm jib went up and we pulled down the remains of our main sail, tidied up the boat and the treated the wounded. In the afternoon a Coast Guard plane flew by and dropped us some extra supplies.”

     Rescuers face challenging conditions in the form of 9 to 15 foot seas and 20 to 30 mph winds.
    All of the other teams are now docked at Jack London Square in Oakland. The boats are scheduled to depart on the next leg on April 14. The race, which began last July in England, is scheduled to finish July 22.

    The two crew transferred are:

    •  Jane Hitchens, 50, a doctor, has suspected broken ribs and is being treated with oxygen.
    •  Nik Brbora, 29, a software engineer who lives in London who has a suspected pelvic strain.

    There were two other crew members hurt in the incident but are staying on the yacht:

    •  Max Wilson, 62, a farmer from Queensland, Australia, who also has suspected broken ribs, but in a more stable condition.
    • Mark Burkes, 47, who was on the helm at the time of the incident, sustained a back injury but is not as badly hurt as originally believed and has been taken off the casualty list.