Coast Guard makes 2nd rescue in ocean rowing race

AP News
Posted: Jun 22, 2014 7:29 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter on Sunday plucked from the Pacific Ocean a rower who was participating in a race from California to Hawaii, the second time in a 24-hour period that authorities were called to help during the inaugural 2,400-mile competition.

A solo rower was hoisted from his boat to a helicopter at about 2 a.m. PDT after capsizing several times in rough seas about 50 miles west of Morro Bay, California, the Coast Guard said.

Organizers identified the rower as Jim Bauer, who the federal agency said was in stable condition. Bauer called the Coast Guard with a satellite phone, and his boat was equipped with a satellite tracking beacon.

"A lot of planning was involved in this particular rescue, due to low visibility and challenging weather conditions," said Lt. Cmdr. Blake McKinney, a Coast Guard pilot based in San Francisco who was involved in the Bauer's rescue.

The rower was well-equipped for the Great Pacific Race from Monterey, California, to Honolulu, filing a float plan, bringing a satellite phone and ensuring he had appropriate gear for the rough seas, McKinney said. Those preparations "increased his chance for survival," the official said.

The Coast Guard also conducted a rescue on Saturday morning. A crew of four rowers reported their boat was taking on water about 75 miles west of San Luis Obispo, California. Conditions were too rough for a sailboat serving as the race organizers' rescue vessel to pick up the rowers.

The Coast Guard responded, and a rescue swimmer was lowered from a helicopter to the rowboat. Three rowers were hoisted into the helicopter before it returned to land to refuel. The aircraft then returned to pick up the remaining rower and rescue swimmer who had stayed with the boat.

None of them required hospitalization.

Race organizers say just seven of the 13 entrants remain in the Great Pacific Race, including a single solo rower. The rest of the participants are either in pairs or on rowboats manned by four people.

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"It's one hell of a human challenge," said Chris Martin, an organizer.

Martin said he has rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean and from Japan to San Francisco as part of a pair, which inspired him to organize the race.

Organizers and rowers have been preparing and training for two years for the amateur race, including obtaining a marine event permit from the Coast Guard, Martin said. He said organizers and crews spent two weeks inspecting boats, equipment and participants.

A "number" of larger boats are following the rowers and are prepared to rescue them if need be, Martin said, adding it appears the rowers have made it through the bad weather and rough seas.