Crew of Mischief Awarded US SAILING Rescue Medal

On behalf of US SAILING, Catalina 22 Association president Pam Slaton presented US SAILING’s Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal to Mitchell Richardson and Keith Bennett for rescuing a fellow sailor in conditions that were disabling sisterships. The award was made at the Dixie Sailing Club in Montgomery, Alabama, during the Scotalina Tutu Regatta in early October.

On February 23, 2002, during the final leg of the Catalina 22 Midwinters first race at Kennedy Point Yacht Club in Titusville, Florida, with water and air temperatures about 70 degrees, a gust of 37-knot wind rolled down the course. The two- to three-foot seas caused carnage to much of the fleet, including capsizing Lil Flash and dumping skipper J. Christopher Woolsey overboard.

Woolsey held the transom for a moment but had no way to climb back onboard. He lost his grip and Woolsey’s crew tossed him a PFD. Mischief skipper Mitchell Richardson and crew Keith Bennett dropped out of the race to attempt the rescue. They tossed Woolsey a throw-line and pulled him to the transom ladder on their boat. Woolsey grabbed the ladder by hand and was dragged behind the boat. The force of the water pulled him from the ladder and he was free in the water again. He again grabbed the throw-line, which trailed the boat, and wrapped the line around his hand.

Richardson and Bennett pulled the 275-pound Woolsey to the transom a second time. This time, Richardson and Bennett each grabbed one of Woolsey’s wrists and gave enough lift to get his foot onto the ladder. Richardson and Bennett fell backward; Woolsey stepped up the ladder, and they all fell into the cockpit. Woolsey had been in the water for 10 minutes.

The US SAILING Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal is given to skippers of pleasure boats or race support vessels who affect rescues of victims from the water. The award is made for rescues in U.S. waters, or in races that originate or terminate in a U.S. port. The Rescue Medal has been in existence for twelve years and is administered by US SAILING’s Safety-at-Sea Committee (SASC). More information about the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal can be found at www.ussailing.org/safety/Rescues/.

The Rescue Medal recognizes acts of exemplary seamanship, and the award process is also used by the SASC as a way to gain more education about rescues at sea. The data and stories of award nominees are studied carefully for the common practices that contribute to, or deter from, the success of a rescue operation.

Born December 8, 1916, Arthur B. "Tim" Hanson started sailing as a child at his family’s home on the Chesapeake Bay. He continued the sport during his years at Cornell University and the College of William and Mary. In 1963, Hanson purchased Figaro III, a 47.5-foot Sparkman and Stephens yawl, and renamed it Foolscap. He sailed every Newport-Bermuda Race from 1964—1982, four transatlantic races including, Bermuda to Travemunde, Germany; Bermuda to Vigo, Spain; Newport to Cork, Ireland; and Bermuda to Khristiansand, Norway. He also raced many Annapolis - Newport and Marblehead-Halifax races and Block Island Race Weeks. In the early 1970s, Hanson tested the first Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) on a private yacht during a transatlantic race.

The United States Sailing Association is the national governing body for the sport of sailing, the mission of which is to encourage participation and excellence in sailing and racing in the United States. The organization achieves its goals through member organizations and volunteers, located throughout the United States, who are supported by an administrative staff located at the organization’s headquarters in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. For more information about US SAILING, visit the website at www.ussailing.org or call (401) 683-0800.