U.S. Coast Guard heads to aid 4 injured yacht crew members

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 01, 2012 2:18 PM
U.S. Coast Guard heads to aid 4 injured yacht crew members

(Reuters) - The U.S. Coast Guard on Sunday was conducting a rescue operation to aid four crew members from the Geraldton Western Australia who were injured when a big wave struck the yacht hundreds of miles west of San Francisco during an around-the-world race.

The Cutter Bertholf and a helicopter were sent to assist the sailors after the wave hit the yacht on Saturday, disabling its main steering and injuring four of the 13 crew members on board, the Coast Guard and race officials said.

The Coast Guard said weather thwarted attempts on Saturday evening to drop parajumpers to the yacht. A long-range Coast Guard HC-130 dropped medical supplies to the vessel.

The extent of injuries was not known.

Race organizers said in a statement that a large wave swept away the yacht's steering mounting and wheel and some of its communications equipment about 400 miles off the California coast, and it was using emergency steering.

Juan Coetzer, skipper of the Geraldton Western Australia, said in the statement the yacht was making good speed, "Then at our watch change, just before the sun came up, a monstrous foaming swell broke over our stern."

The injured crew included Jane Hitchens, 50, Nik Brbora, 29, and Max Wilson, 62. Mark Burkes, 47, who was at the helm when the wave struck, was less seriously injured than first thought, the statement said.

The yacht is one of 10 boats competing in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race that started in the United Kingdom. It was sailing to San Francisco from China.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Colleen Jenkins)