US Sailing’s Safety at Sea Committee has awarded an Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal to two Chicago Yacht Club sailing instructors for rescuing a pair of sailors on Lake Michigan on October 2, 2010.
Racing at the Jimmy Talbot Memorial Regatta, a high school sailing event, was canceled for the day due to 25- to 30- knot winds, 5- to 7- foot waves, and air and water temperatures in the 50s. Despite the hazardous conditions, a 14-year-old sailor and a 23-year-old coach launched a racing dinghy on the public ramp and sailed out into the lake. Neither was wearing a dry suit, but fortunately both were wearing lifejackets. When the dinghy capsized, the younger sailor drifted away, while the coach hung on to the hull.
Observers on shore notified Chicago Yacht Club Sailing School Director Maggie Lumkes and on-the-water director Lynn Walls. Lumkes and Walls headed out into the extreme conditions in a 16-foot inflatable rigid bottom motorboat. They first located and rescued the boy, who had drifted an estimated 100 yards from the capsized dinghy, and then proceeded to pick up the coach. Following the rescue, Lumkes and Walls dropped off the two victims on shore and went out onto the lake again to assist in the unsuccessful attempt to retrieve the dinghy.
Paramedics treated the boy for hypothermia. On the following day, the coach read a statement to the high school sailors that focused on his mistake to attempt sailing in the dangerous conditions, and how they should learn from his experience.
Walls has attended US SAILING’s Safety at Sea Seminar, and is certified through US SAILING’s Small Boat Level 1 and Powerboat Rescue and Safety Instructor courses. 'I can say that my training in both Small Boat Level I and Powerboat Safety and Rescue definitely played a key role in knowing how to properly handle the boat in the seas we were in and how to approach both the sailor in the water and the sailor holding onto the capsized vessel safely,' explained Walls.
'In the 16 years I have been working with sailing dinghies and performing countless numbers of capsize recoveries and assists, this is the first time I have been involved with one in which we ended up abandoning a boat,' Walls said. 'I learned just where that breaking point was, of when it wasn't rational to put anyone at further risk to continue to try and save the boat.'
Walls added, 'I would hope that any dinghy sailors, juniors in particular, use the incident to understand that when the RC (race committee) or race management cancels an event due to excessive weather conditions, it is because there is a real threat posed to the competitors and that should be given serious consideration.'
Lumkes explained, 'I think the biggest lesson for people to learn when performing a rescue is to stay calm. Staying calm makes things easier and it keeps the victims as calm as they can be. The other big lesson is to know when to stop. Getting the capsized boat was going to be too dangerous for us to do and we had potential hypothermic people on-board. The priority was getting the sailors on shore, not the boat.'
About the Medal:
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 U.S., 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 165 boats. Any individual or organization may submit a nomination for a Hanson Rescue Medal. For more information, including nomination forms, please visit the Hanson Rescue Medal site at http://offshore.ussailing.org/SAS/Hanson_Rescue_Award.htm.
About US Sailing;
The United States Sailing Association (US SAILING), the national governing body for sailing, provides leadership, integrity, and growth for the sport in the United States. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, US SAILING is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. US SAILING offers training and education programs for instructors and race officials, supports a wide range of sailing organizations and communities, issues offshore rating certificates, and provides administration and oversight of competitive sailing across the country, including National Championships and the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. For more information, please visit www.ussailing.org.