Coast Guard Performs Harrowing Rescue of Rowers in Great Pacific Race

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew rescued four rowers in rough seas off the coast of Monterey early Saturday morning.

According to Coast Guard officials, the rowers were participating in the Great Pacific Race from Monterey to Honolulu, when their 24-foot rowboat began taking on water Friday evening.

At 9 p.m. Friday the Coast Guard command center in Alameda received a call from a command center in Falmouth, England about the distressed boat. Because the boat was registered in England, the emergency position-indicating radio beacon sent the distress call to Falmouth.

The Coast Guard launched a helicopter from Air Station San Francisco, and a C-130 plane from Air Station Sacramento.

The rowers were located at 1 a.m. about 75 miles west of San Luis Obispo.

Once on the scene, the helicopter crew lowered a rescue swimmer to the rowboat, who hoisted three rowers into the helicopter.

The rescue swimmer then remained on the scene with the fourth rower while the others were taken to the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport to await EMT crews.

The helicopter refueled and returned to the rowboat and hoisted the rescue swimmer and fourth rower into the helicopter.

At about 4 a.m., the fourth rower was taken to Monterey Regional Airport.

All four rowers were reported in good condition, Coast Guard officials said.

"This was the most challenging rescue I've ever had," Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Leon, an Air Station San Francisco rescue swimmer said in a statement.

"It was unique because there was no light, seas were incredibly rough, and waves were crashing over the top of the boat, which was already filled with water," Leon added.

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