Pacific Cup Skipper Safely Evacuated on Return Voyage
August 8, 2022 – San Francisco – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Pacific Cup race organizers are happy to report that Andy Schwenk (57, Point Richmond, CA) has been brought safely to land by a combination of Coast Guard, Air Force, commercial shipping, and assistance from a fellow yacht. A rapidly-spreading infection required the action.
Andy’s Spindrift V, an Express 37, had completed the 2022 Pacific Cup, finishing first in her class on July 18. Returning to California, the boat faced heavy weather, damaging their mainsail and leading to an injury to Andy’s ankle, which subsequently became infected. Various elements of Spindrift’s communications tools were also damaged, leading to challenges in getting assistance.
A relayed call to Pac Cup race organizers led to the diversion of fellow racer (and division winner) Surprise, owned by Bob and Maryann Hinden and skippered for the return by Robin Jeffers, diverting to transfer antibiotics to Spindrift V. The August 4 1 am transfer was a “real pro job,” as Andy later texted. Because of Spindrift’s communications problems, many of the communications in this incident were routed through systems that had been established to manage the race itself. “When the boats couldn’t make direct contact, a lot of coordination took place on my iPhone,” commented Principal Race Officer Michael Moradzadeh.
The infection progressed. After a number of consultations with medical consultants at George Washington University (who had been retained to provide medical support) they, and ultimately US Coast Guard, recommend a medical evacuation. Taiwanese oil and chemical tanker FPMC35 diverted from its course to Panama to collect Andy (another midnight transfer) on August 5.
Two medics parachuted to the FPMC35 from a C130 aircraft and stabilized Andy’s condition as the tanker steamed at high (12 knot) speed toward San Francisco.
On August 7, an airborne flotilla comprising two Blackhawk helicopters, two refuelers, and two C130s combined to collect Andy and the medics and deposit them at Moffet Field. Andy was transferred to Stanford Hospital where he is reported to be in stable condition.
A veteran of dozens of crossings and over 300 thousand ocean miles, this is the first time Andy has had to call for help, and he has expressed his thanks for the support. “We’re incredibly grateful for the actions of Surprise, the FPMC35, the Coast Guard and the Air Force, and our consultants at George Washington University’s Maritime Medical Access team,” said Pacific Cup Commodore Jim Quanci. “Without the concerted action of all these responders, Andy’s situation could have been much worse.”
Spindrift V is proceeding toward the Golden Gate under the command of the remaining crew, including the very experienced Peter English. Travelling at 6.25 knots, Spindrift should arrive in about five days.
photo credit: USCG FIle