Coast Guard Rescues Bayview Mackinaw Racers

DETROIT (D9 Public Affairs) – Coast Guard Sector Detroit coordinated search and rescue and a medical evacuation of a 35-year-old crewman who fell overboard from the sailing vessel Night Train during the Bayview Mackinaw Race 31 nautical miles east of Harrisville, Mich. in the early hours today.

At approximately 1:44 a.m., a Coast Guard rescue helicopter arrived on scene, however, the damaged mast/rigging did not permit a safe transfer from the small boat. Within fifteen minutes, the 140-foot Cutter Biscayne Bay arrived on scene to assist. The cutter sent an EMT in a small boat to assess the victim’s condition.

After discussions with crew and medical flight surgeon, it was determined that it was in the victim’s best interest to get him to a medical facility for further evaluation. The seas had grown to 3-5 feet and winds were 20 knots, as the cutter small boat recovered the victim and brought him to the cutter. Once safely on board, the victim was hoisted to the helicopter. The helicopter then safely transported the victim to Alpena Regional Hospital.

The Night Train, a 35-foot sailboat with 11 racers, was participating in the Bayview Mackinaw Race. The boat was nearly halfway into the race in the middle of Lake Huron, when the sail boat had trouble with their sailing rigging. A crewmember climbed the sail boat’s mast to fix the jammed rigging when, for unknown reasons, he fell approximately 40 feet into the water. It is not clear how or why the man fell. Seas were estimated to be 3-4 feet and winds 15 to 20 knots. Fortunately, the man fell clear of the boat and was wearing a life jacket.

A crew member from the sail boat called out for help on their VHF-FM radio. Sarnia Coast Guard received the initial distress call. Sarnia Traffic forwarded the call to U.S. Coast Guard Sector Detroit’s Command Center which launched rescue efforts and communicated the urgency via VHF-FM radio messages.

As the sail boat attempted to recover the 35-year-old man, the loose rigging fouled the engine and delayed the recovery. Several nearby sailing vessels (sailing vessel’s Liberty, Time Machine, and Canadian Olympia) rushed to the Night Train’s aid as the Coast Guard launched a rescue helicopter from Air Station Detroit. The Biscayne Bay, which was escorting the fleet, also diverted to assist.

The crew of the Night Train was able to successfully recover the man after about 25 minutes. He was entangled in the rigging, had leg and lower back pain, but safe on board. At 1 a.m., the crew successfully started one of their engines and headed to Harrisville, Mich. to repair their boat and get medical attention.

This is the 84th Bayview Yacht Club Port Huron to Mackinac Race. The race started the afternoon of July 12 from the city of Port Huron. The competing sail boats race the new 214 nautical mile course that rounds the NOAA weather buoy 43 miles northeast of Alpena, Mich. and continuing to the finish at Mackinac Island.

The Biscayne Bay is home ported in St. Ignace, Mich. and had the honor of escorting the fleet for this year’s race. The Biscayne Bay is one of 10 Coast Guard cutters on the Great Lakes and is categorized as a harbor tug with icebreaking capabilities.

Coast Guard Sector Detroit reminds the boating public to heed all broadcasted weather warnings during impending storms. People on the water should exercise caution, wear properly fitted personal flotation device (PFD/life-jacket), tell a family member or friend where they are going and when they will return, and have a reliable means of communication.

Coast Guard Sector Detroit directly oversees all Coast Guard missions from Alpena, Michigan to Vermillion, Ohio on Lake Huron, the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers, Lake St. Clair and Western Lake Erie.

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