Coast Guard rescues four Great Pacific Race rowers off California coast

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ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Coast Guard rescued four rowers Saturday, who were participating in the Great Pacific Race from Monterey, Calif., to Honolulu, when their rowboat began taking on water Friday evening.

At 9 p.m., the Coast Guard command center in Alameda received a call from the Marine Rescue Coordination Center in Falmouth, England about a 24-foot rowboat that was taking on water. MRCC Falmouth received the initial distress notification because the emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) for the rowboat was registered in England.

A sailboat, functioning as a safeboat for the Great Pacific Race, was first on scene, but could not complete the transfer of the rowers due to high winds and rough seas. The Coast Guard launched a helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco and a C-130 plane from Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento, locating the rowers at 1 a.m. pacific time and approximately 75 miles west of San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Once on scene, the Coast Guard helicopter crew lowered a rescue swimmer to the rowboat, who hoisted three rowers into the helicopter. The rescue swimmer remained on scene with the fourth rower. The helicopter crew took the three rowers to San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport to awaiting EMT crews. The helicopter crew refueled and returned to the rowboat, where the fourth rower and rescue swimmer were hoisted into the aircraft. At approximately 4 a.m., the fourth rower was taken to Monterey Regional Airport.

All four rowers are reportedly in good condition and did not require further medical attention.

“This was the most challenging rescue I’ve ever had,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Leon, an Air Station San Francisco rescue swimmer. “It was unique because there was no light, seas were incredibly rough and waves were crashing over the top of the boat, which was already filled with water. I’m glad we were able to get on scene and rescue the rowers because surviving the night in those conditions would have been difficult.”

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