For the past three days, anxious rumors have spread on the coconut telegraph — and around the Richmond Yacht Club bar, where a celebration of the club’s 90th birthday was in full swing. This morning, the Pacific Cup’s principal race officer, Michael Moradzadeh, sent out this message:
“Pacific Cup race organizers are happy to report that Andy Schwenk (57, Point Richmond) has been brought safely to land by a combination of Coast Guard, Air Force, commercial shipping and assistance from a fellow yacht. A rapidly spreading infection required the action.”
“Andy’s Spindrift V, an Express 37, had completed the 2022 Pacific Cup, finishing first in her class on July 18. Returning to California, the boat faced heavy weather, damaging their mainsail and leading to an injury to Andy’s ankle, which subsequently became infected. Various elements of Spindrift’s communications tools were also damaged, leading to challenges in getting assistance.
“A relayed call to Pac Cup race organizers led to the diversion of fellow racer (and division winner) Surprise, owned by Bob and Maryann Hinden and skippered for the return by Robin Jeffers, diverting to transfer antibiotics to Spindrift V. The August 4 1 a.m. transfer was a ‘real pro job,’ as Andy later texted. Because of Spindrift’s communications problems, many of the communications in this incident were routed through systems that had been established to manage the race itself. When the boats couldn’t make direct contact, a lot of coordination took place on my iPhone,” commented Moradzadeh.
“The infection progressed. After a number of consultations with medical consultants at George Washington University (who had been retained to provide medical support), they, and ultimately US Coast Guard, recommended a medical evacuation. Taiwanese oil and chemical tanker FPMC35 diverted from its course to Panama to collect Andy (another midnight transfer) on August 5.
“Two medics parachuted to the FPMC35 from a C-130 aircraft and stabilized Andy’s condition as the tanker steamed at high (12-knot) speed toward San Francisco.
“On August 7, an airborne flotilla comprising two Blackhawk helicopters, two refuelers and two C-130s combined to collect Andy and the medics and deposit them at Moffett Field. Andy was transferred to Stanford Hospital where he is reported to be in stable condition.
“A veteran of dozens of crossings and over 300,000 ocean miles, this is the first time Andy has had to call for help, and he has expressed his thanks for the support. ‘We’re incredibly grateful for the actions of Surprise, the FPMC35, the Coast Guard and the Air Force, and our consultants at George Washington University’s Maritime Medical Access team,’ said Pacific Cup Commodore Jim Quanci. ‘Without the concerted action of all these responders, Andy’s situation could have been much worse.’
“Spindrift V is proceeding toward the Golden Gate under the command of the remaining crew, including the very experienced Peter English. Traveling at 6.25 knots, Spindrift should arrive in about five days.”
You can see where Spindrift V and the other Pac Cup boats are on the tracker here.
Susan Hubbard, a staff commodore from RYC, shared this bit of news this morning: “Surgery went well. Andy is in recovery and in good spirits. No visitors for fear of contamination as they grow the cultures that attacked his leg.” Andy, an RYC member, is a professional delivery captain and rigger. Latitude readers might be familiar with him as a contributing writer.
Lee Johnson, who was on the delivery crew for the Vic-Maui Race boat Annie M, John McCarthy’s Alameda-based Amel Mango 52-1, described the conditions as, “Mostly just bad weather that sometimes leads to gear/boat issues. I don’t have a count, but everyone seems to think many more than usual had to turn back. Our weather was nothing special (20-25 knots, 6- to 10-ft seas, the usual squalls).” Annie M turned back because the boat had “begun taking on water from an as-yet unknown source.”