March 31, 2012

SPECIAL REPORT: Clipper Fleet Injuries

Earlier today, the yacht Singapore passed beneath the Golden Gate after her 28-day crossing from Qingdao. Far behind her, sisterships were blasted by near hurricane-strength gusts.

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If you thought conditions were blustery on San Francisco Bay today, be glad you weren’t several hundred miles offshore where 60-knot gusts hammered the back end of the Clipper Round the World Race fleet. According to race organizers Clipper Ventures, four crew aboard the vessel Geraldton Western Australia were injured earlier today when violent winds and seas hit a portion of the 10-boat fleet, roughly 400 miles from the Golden Gate. Since early this month, the fleet of identical sisterships has been racing from Qingdao, China, to San Francisco, a distance of nearly 6,000 miles.

Organizers report that a large wave came over the  68-ft sloop, ripping loose its wheel and mounting, as well as communications gear. U.S. Coast Guard resources are reportedly assisting with medical advice and support, and a container ship has been diverted, but is not expected to rendezvous until after dawn Sunday. Meanwhile, an elite team of Pararescue jumpers is flying to the scene. Their mission will be to stabilize the wounded sailors until evacuation can be accomplished. The conditions seen earlier today, however, reportedly would have been too severe for them to execute their normal rescue protocols.

Clipper Ventures reports: "The four crew members have sustained a range of injuries, including suspected cracked or broken ribs and are being treated by medically trained colleagues. The affected crew members are: Nik Brbora, a 28-year-old software engineer living in London with a possible pelvic sprain. Jane Hitchins, a 50-year-old doctor from Kent with four suspected broken ribs. Max Wilson, 62, from Queensland, Australia with two suspected cracked or broken ribs. Mark Burkes, 37, from Worcestershire UK with a back injury.

Geraldton Western Australia is currently continuing toward San Francisco using backup steering gear. Click here for updates and complete background on the race.

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