by Jake Fish
US Sailing has awarded a Hanson Rescue Medal to David Butler of Dallas, Texas and his crew, Debbie Adams and John Finks, for saving a competitor from the water during a sailboat race on Lake Lewisville near Dallas on November 21, 2010.
David Butler, Dallas TX
While sailing downwind under spinnaker in a strong breeze over 20 knots during a race sponsored by the Dallas Corinthian Yacht Club, Blue Monk, a Merit 25-foot sloop, accidently gybed. The maneuver was so violent that a crew member leaning on the boom, Adrian Rodriguez, was thrown overboard, well away from the boat and into the water. Rodriguez was wearing thick clothes with no life jacket.
Onboard a nearby competing boat, Shotglass, a 26-foot J-80, crew member John Finks observed the incident. Finks alerted his skipper, David Butler, and served as spotter so the victim was not lost in the two- to three-foot waves. Butler immediately altered course toward the victim and instructed his crew to take in the spinnaker.
'We were close to the man overboard and knew it was our responsibility and the only thing to do,' said Butler.
As Shotglass neared Rodriguez, Butler headed into the wind and stopped just upwind of the victim so the boat’s hull sheltered him from the wind and steep waves. Just three minutes after he was thrown into the water, Rodriguez was hauled onboard Shotglass by Butler and Adams. Despite the cold temperatures, Rodriguez was not yet hypothermic. He was able to assist in his rescue before being taken below and given dry clothing.
'The man overboard was a little surprised how quick we arrived and was uncertain how to get back in the boat, but with some gentle coaching, he climbed aboard without incident,' explained Butler.
Butler dropped out of the race and headed back to the harbor. Blue Monk followed behind, retrieved Rodriguez, and sailed back out for the next race.
'Communication was easy, because we didn't, need to talk much,' added Butler. 'They knew the drill. Furl the jib, turn downwind, circle around the man overboard, head back upwind, back the main to slow us considerably, come along side and haul him in.'
The Dallas Corinthian Yacht Club turned this near tragedy into a learning opportunity by publishing an account of the accident in its newsletter, stressing the importance of wearing life jackets and keeping a lookout.
'Practice man overboard drills and wear life jackets at all times,' said Butler. 'Attend safety at sea seminars and always know what the flags and pennants mean on the committee boat.'
The Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal is awarded by US Sailing’s Safety-at-Sea Committee to any person who rescues or endeavors to rescue any other person from drowning, shipwreck, or other perils at sea within the territorial waters of the United States, or as part of a sailboat race or voyage that originated or stopped in the U.S. Since it was established in 1990 by friends of the late Mr. Hanson, an ocean-racing sailor from the Chesapeake Bay, the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal has been presented to more than 170 boats. Any individual or organization may submit a nomination for a Hanson Rescue Medal.
For the most authoritative daylong seminar on safe seamanship, heavy weather tactics, weather forecasting, communications and boat preparation, Americans can register for an upcoming US Sailing Safety-at-Sea Seminar. Please visit the event website for details on these certification opportunities. Learn more about why you should attend or organize a US Sailing Certified Safety at Sea Seminar.
*Rescue report drafted by John Rousmaniere