VIDEO: Two of the four injured crew members rescued by US coastguard in Pacific Ocean

The US coastguard has successfully rescued injured British crewmembers Jane Hitchens and Nik Brbora from the Clipper boat Geraldton Western Australia.

The pair were injured when a huge wave crashed into the 68 foot racing yacht as it made its way to San Francisco across the Pacific Ocean.

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 has a suspected pelvic strain.

The coast guard confirmed today that it had succesfully transferred Jane
Hitchens and Nik Brbora to US Coast Guard cutter Bertholf for transfer to the US mainland, where they will be transferred by ambulance to San Francisco General Hospital.They are being treated by medical specialists aboard the US Coast Guard vessel which is due to arrive at the USCG Alameda facility on Coast Guard Island in San Francisco Bay on Monday 2 April. The vessel is expected to arrive alongside between 0700 and 0800 local time today (1400-1500 UTC/1500-1600 BST).

Photo: Cutter Bertholf’s medical specialists attend to injured sailors Jane Hitchins, 50, and Nik Brbora, 29. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of the Cutter Bertholf.

Four crewmembers were hurt in the incident when a particularly deep and nasty low pressure system passed across their route, approximately 400 miles from the finish line in San Francisco Bay and a huge wave crashed over the back of the boat and swept away its steering wheel, mount and communications equipment. 

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.”

Photo: Crew from the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s cutter boat work to recover 2 injured crew from a damaged racing yacht 250 miles west of the California coast April 1, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of the Cutter Bertholf.  

 Photo: A Coast Guard MH-60T medium range helicopter and a cutter
boat from the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf respond to a damaged racing
yacht 250 miles west of the California coast April 1, 2012. U.S. Coast
Guard photo courtesy of the Cutter Bertholf.


VIDEO: B-Roll footage of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf recovering two injured sailors from a damaged racing yacht 250 miles west of the California coast April 1, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard video courtesy of the Cutter Bertholf.

Two other crewmembers also sustained injuries. Max Wilson, 62, a farmer from Queensland, Australia, also has suspected broken ribs. He has been able to move around again and is expected to remain on the yacht until it docks in San Francisco in the next 2 days. Similiarly, 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.

Earlier, a C-130 aircraft dropped additional mediacl supplies to the yacht, including oxygen for one of the crew. An initial attempt was made on Sunday night to parachute
medical help to the crew but it was abandoned after poor weather
conditions made the attempt too dangerous.


VIDEO: US Coast Guard drop medical supplies to Geraldton Western Australia. USCG video by Seaman David Flores.

Geraldton Western Australia is continuing to make good progress towards Oakland, San Francisco Bay, under secondary steering and is within 250 miles from port.

VIDEO: The Clipper yachts have had a tough time crossing the Pacific. Watch the extreme conditions Clipper yacht Qingdao experienced last week:

Six of the other nine yachts competing in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race have now arrived in Jack London Square, Oakland, California, where they will remain until the start of the next race on 14 April.

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