Coast Guard saves yacht crew after violent storm

(CBS News) - A U.S. Coast Guard cutter is expected to reach San Francisco Monday morning carrying two seriously injured British sailors rescued late Sunday night.

Two members of the crew of the Geraldton Western Australia - a 50-year-old doctor and a 29-year-old engineer - were injured when a violent storm in the Pacific Ocean ripped the helm clean off their ship's dock.

Coast Guard rescues injured sailors

They were participating in the Clipper Round the World yacht race -- the longest of its kind for amateurs -- some 40,000 miles.

But the leg across the North Pacific was the hardest and Geraldton's crew was apprehensive even before it began. "I don't think anyone who has a brain cell between their ears is going to say they're not slightly nervous about it," said crew member Ian Geraghty.

The fleet of 10 racing boats hit a storm Saturday, the likes of which they had never seen.

"There's times when you almost want to give up, but none of these guys gave up, they worked really, really hard throughout," said Mark Light, skipper of the Derry-Londonderry.

The Geraldton's skipper told the Coast Guard "a monstrous foaming swell broke over the stern." The wave slammed the crew to the deck and ripped the wheel off its mount, sending it overboard leaving them temporarily adrift.

The weather remained so bad for most of Sunday, the Coast Guard could only air-drop medical supplies to injured sailors below. The most seriously injured were taken aboard a cutter to safety just before dusk Sunday night.

After some repairs, the Geraldton plans to continue the competition.

  • Lee Cowan

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