Air Station Elizabeth City aircrew medevacs man from sailboat off Cape Henry, Va.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The Coast Guard medevaced a 66-year-old man from a sailboat Monday 113 miles off the coast of Cape Henry.

The sailor was airlifted from his vessel by a Coast Guard rescue helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., and transported to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

Watchstanders at the Coast Guard 5th District Command Center received a call from the sailor’s friend at 5 p.m. Sunday. The friend had stopped receiving electronic updates from the 31-foot sailboat Lancastrian, whose owner was sailing the vessel from Norfolk, Va., to Scotland alone.

Watchstanders diverted the container ship M/V President Jackson, a participant in the Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue system, AMVER, to the vicinity of the last known location of the Lancastrian. The President Jackson was able to locate the sailboat, which was adrift, but the merchant vessel’s size prevented it from rendering assistance.

The oceangoing tugboat Julie, another participant in AMVER, was also diverted to the scene, and its crew was able to lower a boat into the water and pull alongside the Lancastrian. The crew of the Julie contacted the Coast Guard command center and reported that the sailboat’s owner seemed incapacitated.

An HH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter crew launched from Air Station Elizabeth City and arrived on scene at 10 a.m. Monday. Two rescue swimmers were lowered into the water and made their way to the Lancastrian, where they consulted with the sailor as well as his spouse via satellite phone. The decision was made to abandon the sailboat, and the swimmers and the Lancastrian’s owner were hoisted aboard the helicopter.

According to watchstanders, the sailboat’s possession of emergency and communications equipment facilitated the Coast Guard’s and the AMVER vessels’ ability to contact and to locate it. All mariners are encouraged to have a VHF radio and an emergency position-indicating radio beacon, EPIRB, especially during long or solo voyages.

AMVER, sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard, is used worldwide by search and rescue authorities to arrange for assistance to persons in distress at sea. There are more than 19,000 vessels from around the world that have voluntarily enrolled in the AMVER network, and on any given day more than 3,700 vessels are available to divert and to assist in an emergency situation. For more information, visit http://www.amver.com.

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