Pyewacket’s Rescue of OEX in the 50th Transpac
By Paul Cayard
I recently had a first in sailing. This one was special because rather than involving competitive success, it was all about the importance of the fraternity that we sailors are part of.
The 2019 Transpac was the 50th anniversary of the iconic race, with 82 yachts competing. I was honored to be racing on board Club member Roy P. Disney’s Pyewacket with an all-star crew. On July 13, we left the dock in Long Beach with aspirations to win. As fate would have it, our mission this year would be of a higher calling.
At 01:55PDT, Monday, July 15, a distress call was made to the U.S. Coast Guard by the yacht OEX on channel 16. Onboard Pyewacket, Ben Mitchell, who was getting dressed for his watch, heard the call and asked our navigator Tom Addis to check on the location of OEX. We soon found out that the sinking yacht was just three miles and almost directly ahead of us.
In an instant, and without hesitation, our mindset shifted from full race to full rescue. At 15 knots of boat speed, the target would be just 12 minutes ahead. It was dark and fairly windy. There was a lot to do.
A crew of veteran ocean racers, we slowed our boat, dropped, flaked and lashed down all three sails. We made sure all lines were out of the water before starting the engine. Doing any of the above tasks incorrectly could have rendered us useless as a rescue vessel.
As we pulled alongside and to leeward of the two rafts, we immediately asked if all of the crew were accounted for. They were. We proceeded to help the nine sailors aboard. We then recovered and stowed their two life rafts. The speed with which we executed the rescue made it seem benign.
Fundamental Rule #1.1 of Sailing states: A boat or competitor shall give all possible help to any person or vessel in danger. This was the first time I ever rescued a crew from a sinking vessel!
Rather than sharing a trophy this year, we, the crew of Pyewacket 2019, share a strong sense of camaraderie, honor and pride in rendering assistance to fellow competitors in a perilous situation. There is no greater calling as a sailor.