Please select your home edition
Edition
Southern Spars

Dangerous rescue brings more awards for three

by Nancy Knudsen on 23 Sep 2012
Lowe Corporation Rescue helicopter had just 20 minutes of fuel left when it landed after the rescue .. .
As cruising sailors it is all too easy to take for granted that the rescue authorities will be there when we need them but the harrowing stories of dangerous rescues are just what we need to be humbled by their contribution. A civilian medal has been awarded to three men at the core of a daring and dangerous rescue in New Zealand.

The three, senior winchman Geoff Taylor, St John Ambulance advanced paramedic Stephen Smith and pilot Dean Herrick, who were awarded the Royal Humane Society's Silver Medal, had already been presented with the New Zealand Search and Rescue Council's top honour for bravery - the Gold Award. Read their story:


The call-out on October 11 was one Mr Smith said he would never forget, and the most challenging he had been involved in.

Wellington yachtie George Horgan, 63, called for help after the sails of his nine-metre yacht were blown out and the engine had failed - about 50 nautical miles out from the cape.

'The yacht was thrashing about in rough seas,' Mr Smith told local publication Hawke's Bay Today. He was winched down into 5m swells and 35-knot winds to rescue Mr Horgan, but the conditions and the sailor's reluctance to leave the yacht to get into a better position to be rescued, away from the swaying mast, made it treacherous.

The award citation stated:

Mr Smith had been lowered into the water and reached the boat, but getting the yachtsman into the desired position away from his boat proved to be extremely difficult. He was finally able to get the yachtsman into the harness.

Complications which followed resulted in the winch line with Mr Smith and the yachtsman attached to it becoming entangled with a rope linking a life raft to the boat. It took great skill on the part of all three crew members to free the winch line.

Mr Smith, in the water, was being repeatedly battered by the sea and against the yacht. Meanwhile, to compound their problems, the yachtsman endeavoured to climb back onto the boat, became entangled, and fell out of the harness into the water. He could not be seen. The crew believed he had been lost.

Physically spent and gasping for breath Mr Smith was winched back to the helicopter.

The yachtsman resurfaced some distance away and was seen by the pilot, Dean Herrick.

Despite his condition Mr Smith went back into the water again. After being frequently submerged he managed to reach the yachtsman and place him in the strop, bear-hugging him to prevent him slipping out again. They were then winched back to the helicopter. The man was unconscious, and a dead weight, requiring Mr Smith and Mr Taylor to use all their strength to get him on board.

Once inside, Stephen Smith was completely exhausted, he could barely speak and was vomiting sea water.

He required hospital treatment for secondary drowning. He had sustained a black eye and bruising to his neck, arms and shoulders.

By the time the helicopter had landed safely at the Hawke's Bay Hospital, with only approximately 20 minutes of reserve fuel remaining, the operation had taken approximately two hours, including the one-hour winch rescue on location.

All three involved took the same stance as winchman Mr Taylor, who recognised the situation they were placing themselves in. 'It's just part of the job,' he said.

Mr Smith said while he had not had contact with Mr Horgan he had met family members who had told him how 'deeply grateful' they were for what he, Mr Taylor and Mr Herrick had done.

My take on this account, apart from being impressed and grateful for the heroic actions of the three men, is that if you ever have to be winched to a helicopter, prepare yourself to jump away from the yacht so as not to further endanger yourself and your rescuers.

Wildwind 2016 660x82InSunSport - NZBarz Optics - San Juan Worlds Best Eyewear

Related Articles

D-Marin Farr 40 Zadar Regatta – Overall report
Enfant Terrible and Plenty have been doing battle on the Farr 40 International Circuit for several years now. Enfant Terrible and Plenty have been doing battle on the Farr 40 International Circuit for several years now. Those two top-notch programs have resumed their rivalry this week in the waters off this historic city along the Dalmatian coast.
Posted on 23 Sep
Impressive tow-in freestyle show on the water in Cold Hawaii
The second day of the netIP Cold Hawaii PWA World Cup proved to be yet another lay day for the main competitio The second day of the netIP Cold Hawaii PWA World Cup proved to be yet another lay day for the main competition as expected with light winds and small waves.
Posted on 21 Sep
Brookes and Gatehouse Videos with Knut Frostad
Navico, the parent company for Brookes and Gatehouse (B&G), Simrad and Lowrance have prepared some terrific videos Navico, the parent company for Brookes and Gatehouse (B&G), Simrad and Lowrance have prepared some terrific videos with Knut Frostad, the legendary Volvo Ocean Race sailor and former CEO. See him talk about sailing in general, the B&G product choices and placement he made for his own boat, and then why he loves his Outremer 5X.
Posted on 8 Sep
Soft Padeyes – light, strong and versatile
Several types of soft padeyes are now available and are proving increasingly popular over traditional stainless steel pa Several types of soft padeyes are now available on the market and are proving increasingly popular over traditional stainless steel padeyes. They all capitalise on the incredible strength to weight ratio and abrasion resistance of Dyneema® which offers a reliable, robust, flexible and safe termination.
Posted on 6 Sep
The hurricanes headed for Hawaii and Florida
The National Weather Service has upgraded a tropical storm headed for Florida to hurricane status. The National Weather Service has upgraded a tropical storm headed for Florida to hurricane status. The first of two hurricanes headed toward Hawaii lost strength and was downgraded to a tropical storm. Meanwhile, in Florida, a tropical storm gained in strength and is now designated as a hurricane.
Posted on 4 Sep
Zhik sailors win 17 sailing medals at 2016 Olympic Regatta
The 2016 Olympic games are over and what a Games they have been - Zhik sailors dominated Zhik sailors won almost 60% of the medals contested at Rio de Janeiro. It was a regatta which tested sailors and gear - with one day being the most severe conditions ever experienced at an Olympic regatta. For the Zhik team riders on the waters of Rio, four years and more of hard work and dedication have paid off for many.
Posted on 29 Aug
Kids Polarised Sunglasses from Barz Optics
Barz Optics have developed a quality range of junior polarised sunglasses ideal for sailing and fishing. Barz Optics have developed a quality range of junior polarised sunglasses ideal for sailing and fishing. Each pair are supplied with a neoprene case and sunglass retainer.
Posted on 4 Aug
Reducing weight aloft with composite backstays
Reducing weight aloft is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing your boat speed and performance. Reducing weight aloft is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing your boat speed and performance. Every kilogram you take out of the rig is roughly equivalent to 4kg added to the bottom of your keel!
Posted on 26 Jul
Free $US3,000 Carbon Vang with SouthernFurl boom orders in July
Southern Spars is giving a free carbon vang - valued at US$3,000 - with SouthernFurl in-boom furlers ordered in July Southern Spars is giving away a free carbon vang - valued at US$3,000 - with all of their SouthernFurl in-boom furlers ordered in July. Carbon gas vangs make a great addition to the furling boom package, though if you’d prefer to keep your existing one, Southern Spars will offer you a 5% discount on the price of your boom instead.
Posted on 29 Jun
Newport Bermuda Race - High Noon takes honours
As the Newport Bermuda Race fleet rushed to the finish line on Monday in the wake of the first-to-finish boat, As the Newport Bermuda Race fleet rushed to the finish line on Monday in the wake of the first-to-finish boat, the powerful 100-foot grand prix Comanche, to the surprise of many they were led by an unusual boat and crew. High Noon, at 41 feet, is fully 59 feet shorter than Comanche and tens of feet shorter than many other entries.
Posted on 22 Jun