Successful rescue in the Pacific Ocean

Published on August 8th, 2022

(August 8, 2022) – USCG-licensed captain, instructor and rigging specialist Andy Schwenk (57, Point Richmond, CA) 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.

Schwenk’s Express 37 Spindrift V had completed the 2022 Pacific Cup from San Francisco to Hawaii, 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, a Schumacher 46 owned by Bob and Maryann Hinden and skippered for the return by Robin Jeffers, diverting to transfer antibiotics to Spindrift V.

The August 4 transfer at 1:00 am 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 Principal Race Officer Michael Moradzadeh.

The infection progressed, and after a number of consultations with medical advisors at George Washington University (who had been retained to provide medical support) they, and ultimately US Coast Guard, recommend a medical evacuation.

Taiwanese oil and chemical tanker FPMC35 diverted from its course to Panama to collect Schwenk (another midnight transfer) on August 5. Two medics parachuted to the FPMC35 from a C130 aircraft and stabilized his condition as the tanker steamed at 12 knots toward San Francisco.

On August 7, an airborne flotilla comprising two Blackhawk helicopters, two refuelers, and two C130s combined to collect Schwenk and the medics and deposit them at Moffet Field, who then was transferred to Stanford Hospital where he is reported to be in stable condition.

“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.”

A veteran of dozens of crossings and over 300,000 ocean miles, this is the first time Schwenk has had to call for help, and he has expressed his thanks for the support. Spindrift V is proceeding toward the Golden Gate under the command of the remaining crew, including the very experienced Peter English. Travelling at 6.25 knots, Spindrift should arrive in about five days.

Source: Pacific Cup Yacht Club

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