The US Sailing Safety at Sea Committee has awarded the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medals to a sailboat’s crew for their heroic efforts during the 2014 Newport to Bermuda Race. On June 22, 2014 in the mid-Atlantic, the crew of the Taylor 41 Wandrain put out a mayday call.
(Left to right): James Cummiskey, John Melvin, US Sailing Safety at Sea presenter Gino Bottino, Jake Kramer, Lars Forsberg, IHYC Vice Commodore Karin Nye, and IHYC Commodore Martin Jacobson at the award ceremony. © Mary Alice Fisher
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 – skipper John Melvin, navigator Peter Rugg, and watch captains Jamie Cummiskey and 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 said later. “This is the stuff that’s important to the sport.”
Black Watch, a custom 68-foot S&S yawl built 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. Bill Tucker aboard Wandrain, following 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 3M 4200 adhesive, finished off the dam with silicone, taped it up, and crossed their fingers.
Melvin made the call to drop out of the race and shepherd Wandrain 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. Under motor, Wandrain would vibrate too much to proceed. Under sail, constant side pressure on the bearing slowed the water entry, although the crew had to hand pump the entire way.
The Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal was awarded to the entire 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 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 U.S., 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 racer 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 for use in educational and training programs.