Injured crewman to be taken off

One of Robin Knox-Johnston’s Clipper Race yachts California, which lost her mast in a 120 degree roll, has a Danish registered tanker, Nord Nightingale, standing by.

The 180-metre tanker was on passage from Yokohama to Los Angeles and diverted by US Coastguard last night. It’s a standard rule of the sea that vessels divert when another is in distress and the intention was to transfer injured crew member Clive Cockram on board.

Clive was sitting in the saloon when the boat rolled and was thrown across the cabin, ending up with cuts to his head. He responded well to treatment but it is prudent to ensure that he swiftly gets the best medical care.

While the winds have dropped from the 60 knots experienced over the last few days, the sea state is still confused and to make the transfer required excellent seamanship from both the crew of California and the Nord Nightingale. After several attempts, Clive was safely transferred and the launch was recovered to the merchant vessel.

Once on board, the first thing he asked for was to make a phone call to his Mum! The 53-year-old company director informed her that he requires some stitches to his wounds but that he was feeling OK and was being very well looked after. He promised to call her again when the vessel docks in LA on 31 March.

Fellow crew member, Dennis Flynn, was also taken on board. Dennis had signed up to sail Leg five of the Clipper Race and since the start in Qingdao, he has experienced more than most sailors will ever go through.
As an American citizen, the captain of the Nord Nightingale considered it helpful to have him on board to assist with immigration and medical issues as the vessel nears Los Angeles.

On board California, the clean up operation continues as they continue to motor due east towards their destination in San Francisco. Jamaica Lightning Bolt remains on station shadowing the yacht and relaying messages back to the Clipper Race Office.

“We finally caught up with California in the dark some 18 hours after we were diverted to offer assistance,” says Pete Stirling, skipper of Jamaica Lightning Bolt. “We held position with her throughout the day until the very welcome sight of the tanker loomed over the horizon at 0430 GMT this morning. As they came to a stop next to us they launched their MOB boat (a small launch with an outboard engine) to come and take the casualty off California. There was still a large confused swell running with 25 knots of wind which made the operation no easy task.
After over an hour of attempting to safely get alongside California, the medevac was successfully completed whilst in the slightly calmer seas of the lee of the ship. The ships Captain and crew displayed great courage and seamanship in seeing this difficult task through to a successful end.”

When asked what the situation was like on board California, Pete replied, “The crew were buoyant and upbeat given what had happened to them. It must have been a big shock and they have pulled together extremely well to sort it out. All credit to Pete (Rollason) in the way he has led his team, it’s a big knock back for them but he has given his crew a good pep talk and they have got on with the task in hand in a professional manner.

“With more than 2,000 miles to go to San Francisco there are still some big challenges ahead but nothing which can’t be overcome with good preparation and, dare I say it, a sense of humour.”

California is not the only vessel to have emerged from the storm licking their war wounds. Uniquely Singapore were also served a sharp reminder on how fierce Mother Nature can be when their boat was knocked down during the storm. But the team was fortunate and only suffered relatively minor damage.

In the last 48 hours Uniquely Singapore has had rather an interesting ride,” says skipper Jim Dobie. “The actions of the crew were outstanding, there was no panicking, and everyone quickly got involved with getting her back to normal. I must say that I am so proud to be the skipper of such a magnificent bunch of guys and girls.

“Our concern at the moment is our helm as we still have a bit of a wobbly wheel. However, we are back up and sailing again and making our way to California to offer her assistance if required and then we will continue racing on to San Francisco. We are proud of how we dealt with the situation and have kept our sponsor’s Keppel can, can, can do attitude all the way.”

Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, Spirit of Australia and Hull & Humber have also diverted to California to offer assistance and to transfer fuel if required to ensure the US entry reaches her home port safely.

“The news of Uniquely Singapore’s knock-down and California’s dismasting has hit us all hard here on Hull & Humber,” says skipper Brendan Hall. “Whatever it takes, we will get each other into port safely.”

Having heard the news about California, the crew on board Edinburgh Inspiring Capital are fully aware how fortunate they’ve been and how wise their decision was to head south and avoid the worst of the storm.

Skipper Matt Pike, says, “Finally the lull between the gusts gets longer and we have started to emerge out of the low pressure system. Our plan to stay south seems to have paid off with the wind rarely topping forty knots and the sea stayed relatively good. Our sympathy goes out to those who were not so lucky.

“We have been making the most of the break in the weather to check the boat for wear and tear and fix any small problems that we find. The next milestone for us will be passing under two thousand miles to finish, hopefully tomorrow! Meanwhile it’s business as usual on the big purple beastie as we plot a new course around the next system and position ourselves where we might be able to offer assistance to California if required.”

Race leaders, Cape Breton Island, have emerged from the storm relatively unscathed and like Edinburgh Inspiring Capital the crew is taking the opportunity provided by the lull in conditions to have a tidy up on board.

“After a few days enduring the extreme weather, today has been a fairly relaxed day’s sailing.  We have enjoyed the relative lighter wind which is still blowing at 30 knots and taken the time to dry out as much of our soaking wet kit as possible.

“We are all thanking our luck for getting through the heavy weather with little damage to the boat and only a few minor bumps and bruises suffered by the crew. The boat is now a much nicer environment below decks as we have bailed out gallons of water from the waves which crashed onto the decks and flooded down the companionway. We have wiped and dried every surface on the boat and even managed to have the hatches open for a little while to help dry her out.

“All of us now are focused on getting ourselves and the boat safely to San Francisco.”