The US Sailing Safety at Sea Committee has awarded the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medals to a sailboat’s crew for their heroic efforts displayed during the 2014 Newport to Bermuda Race, hosted by the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. The award ceremony and dinner took place at Indian Harbor Yacht Club in Greenwich, Conn. on Friday, November 13.
On June 22, 2014 in the mid-Atlantic Ocean, the crew of the Taylor 41 Wandrain put out a mayday call. The boat had been taking on water with serious hull damage. Three boats responded to the VHS call; Rocket Science, Black Watch and Dorade. Black Watch‘s afterguard—John Melvin, navigator Peter Rugg, and the watch captains Jamie Cummiskey and CCA member Lars Forsberg—decided that their larger vessel was best qualified to stand by and escort Wandrian to Bermuda.
“If the boat has to be evacuated and someone else needs to take eight or nine people aboard, we should be there,” Rugg later explained. “This is the stuff that’s important to the sport.”
Black Watch, a custom S&S yawl of 68 feet, made in 1938, dropped out of the race to go to the assistance of Wandrain. When she reached the vessel a plan for short term damage control was transmitted to the crew of Wandrain and implemented. Bill Tucker, following Lars Forsberg’s plan from Black Watch, skillfully put a secondary “dam” in place to hold out the water. The crew cut out the bottom of a bailing bucket, split the remaining bucket in two, secured the two pieces around the rudder post with 4,200 adhesive, finished off the dam with silicone to fill the remaining cracks and holes, and taped it up with Duct tape—and crossed their fingers. The fiberglass tube holding the post could shake so badly that it would crack wide open.
Melvin, skipper of Black Watch, had made the call to drop out of the race and shepherd Wandrain while she made her way to Bermuda. This was a 300-mile-long, three-day assist during which the crew of Black Watch had to slow down and often circle Wandrain as she made way. Experimenting with sail combinations, they settled on a full or reefed mainsail, the mizzen, and a forestay sail that could be trimmed to windward to slow the boat by heaving-to. The crew also employed the abrupt slowing maneuver called the “Crazy Ivan,” made famous by the film The Hunt for Red October. Under motor, Wandrain would vibrate too much to proceed. Under sail the constant side pressure on the bearing helped slow the water entry. The crew had to hand pump the entire way to Bermuda.
For the great seamanship exhibited, and the willingness to shepherd a stricken vessel to safety, US Sailing is proud to award the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal to the crew of Black Watch; Peter Rugg, Kyle Dufur, Phil McDonough, John Melvin, Jamie Cummiskey, Mark Pennington, Jim Volkwein, Jay Cummiskey, Michael Melvin, Lars Forsberg, Chris Fisher, Jessie Terry, Tom Degremont, Jake Kramer, and Peter Forsberg.
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. The medal was established in 1990 by friends of the late Mr. Hanson, an ocean-racing sailor from the Chesapeake Bay, with the purpose of recognizing significant accomplishments in seamanship and collecting case studies of rescues for analysis by the Safety at Sea Committee of US Sailing for use in educational and training programs. Any individual or organization may submit a nomination for a Hanson Rescue Medal.