August 6, 2010
The crew of the J/35 Time Machine receive the Hanson Rescue Medal.
Courtesy Of John Rousmaniere
"A boat or competitor shall give all possible help to any person or vessel in danger." So reads Rule 1.1 in ISAF's Racing Rules of Sailing. But we really don't have to be told that, do we? The mariner's unwritten law is that we're all in this together. In that spirit, US Sailing over the past 20 years has awarded the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal to sailors who have saved other sailors' lives. The awards, which are in memory of Arthur B. Hanson, an ocean sailor from Chesapeake Bay, are managed by US Sailing's Safety-at-Sea Committee.
To gain a feel for the accomplishments of Hanson honorees, consider the medals that have been awarded since November 2009. Seven lives were saved by typical racing and cruising crews after five accidents that occurred on Long Island Sound, on two of the Great Lakes, on the Pacific Ocean off San Francisco, and off Hawai'i. One sailor, after saving two guys who fell off their boat near the Farallon Islands, chased down the boat and tossed his EPIRB into it so it could be tracked. The skipper of Time Machine, on Lake Huron, saw a glint of light above the water and discovered a capsized dinghy and two exhausted sailors waving a paddle. And then there's the desperate effort by five boats to save a partially disabled sailor who went overboard without a lifejacket in Kaneohe Bay, Hawai'i.
The award's ground rules are straightforward. "The Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal is awarded 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." And the medal has two purposes: "recognizing significant accomplishments in seamanship and collecting case studies of rescues for analysis."
What do these events teach us? First, most sailors are responsible. The rescuers instinctively did the right thing. Second, stand a proper watch. Five of the seven victims in these incidents were spotted by alert sailors who kept their eyes and ears open. Third, a rescue isn't rocket science. Simple gear and basic sailing skills usually do the job. Finally, a boating accident endangers a community. If you go into the water, you risk not only your own life but also those of the good souls who will try to save you.
Anyone may submit a nomination for a Hanson Rescue Medal (including a self-nomination). Find the online nomination form on the US Sailing website.
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