Veteran sailor, midshipman win Hanson rrescue medal


July 29, 1992|By Nancy Noyes

A veteran local sailor and a Naval Academy midshipman have been awarded the Arthur B. Hanson U.S. Sailing Rescue medal for quick-thinking, life-saving work in two incidents recently.

Annapolitan Chad Doherty, who is chief of the Auxiliary Boating and Consumer Division of the U.S. Coast Guard, and race committee chairman of the Cape St. Claire Yacht Club, received the medal for his rescue of a local couple in April.

Doherty and his crew were sailing on the Magothy River on his Pearson 26 Flambeau when they saw a man fall overboard from a Pearson 30. By the time they reached the other boat, another crew member from the Pearson 30 had also fallen into the water.

Doherty quickly tossed throwables with attached lines into the water to retrieve the victims, neither of whom was wearing a personal flotation device, and he and his crew pulled the cold but unharmed husband and wife aboard.

"These were very experienced boaters, but they were in the water and a not-so-experienced crew was suddenly in charge," Doherty said. "There's no doubt that my recent attendance at an educational seminar contributed to this quick and efficient rescue."

In the other award, Mid. 1/C Alex del Castillo, a member of the academy's Varsity Offshore Sailing Team, was responsible for rescuing Ensign John Ahrens during the 1992 Newport to Bermuda Race last month, using the "quick-stop" maneuver developed at the academy.

The crew of the Navy 44 Lively was racing about 174 miles from Bermuda when skipper Ahrens fell backward over the leeward rail after the boat hit a large wave.

Academy sailing regulations require the use of safety harnesses on deck after dark and in heavy weather, but not during daylight hours in manageable conditions. Because it was daylight and conditions were not severe, Ahrens was not wearing a safety harness at the time of the incident. His only injury was a cut hand from grabbing for the lifelines during his fall.

Del Castillo, who was at the helm, and the Lively crew reacted immediately, threw the man-overboard module, got a loran fix on Ahrens and performed the quick-stop maneuver. As they turned the boat to get back to the spot where Ahrens had fallen, del Castillo turned the helm over to Lively's volunteer coach, Bill O'Donnell, and quickly pulled Ahrens back aboard.

"I had been in the water for only 30 or 40 seconds," Ahrens said. "Thanks to thorough instruction and practice, Lively's crew recovered me without panic and continued to race in under a minute."

Lively finished fifth in class and 20th overall in the Bermuda Race.

Del Castillo noted that he was most proud that, although no member of the crew was in his "normal" position from which the team had drilled and practiced the quick-stop aboard the boat, each crewman did his portion of the job flawlessly.

Del Castillo, a native of central Florida, had never sailed before coming to the academy three years ago.

The quick-stop maneuver, which is gaining favor and used around the world, is demonstrated for the public each year by midshipman sailors during the on-the-water portion of the local Safety At Sea Seminar. The highly effective method of returning to recover a man overboard is practiced extensively by midshipman sailors as part of their training.

lTC As a personal note, I take special pride in Alex del Castillo's award, since my husband and I are his sponsors, and the medal's namesake, the late Arthur B. "Tim" Hanson, was a longtime family friend who sailed out of Gibson Island for many years.

The Hanson U.S. Sailing Rescue Medal is given to skippers of pleasure vessels who effect rescues of victims from the water. The award is made for rescues in U.S. waters, or for those which occur in races originating or terminating in a U.S. port.

Suggestions for the award are encouraged from all sailors. To nominate someone you know, simply send adequate documentation (a log entry or incident report will be sufficient) and a complete description of the event to Rescue Medal, U.S. Sailing, Box 209, Newport, R.I. 02840, or call 849-5200 for more information.

* Severn Sailing Association's Annual II Regatta for keelboats over the weekend drew 49 starters for Olympic triangle competition in a hard-fought, five-race series in varying conditions.

"Saturday was pretty shifty," said J/24 winner Mike Hobson. "We went from way back to win that race in one of those last-to-first situations. Then, [Sunday] was ideal for J/24s, 12-to-15 knots from the southwest and pretty steady."

Despite tough competition from others in the class, Hobson and his crew were able to dominate the racing both days, particularly when seven of his fellows were disqualified as premature starters in the second of three races on Saturday.

Hobson also proved strong on Sunday, despite a bad start to the day.

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