Coast Guard finally reaches injured sailors off California coast

  • In this image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, Air National Guard parajumpers, from the 129th Rescue Wing prepare medical supplies to be dropped from a Coast Guard aircraft to a 67-foot sailing yacht with three injured persons aboard, the Clipper Venture Six which is sponsored by Geraldton Western Australia, in the Round the World Yacht Race, Saturday, March 31, 2012. The Coast Guard's Rescue Coordination Center in Alameda, Calif. is coordinating the efforts to rescue the three injured persons 400 miles west of San Francisco. (AP Photo/Seaman David Flores, U.S. Coast Guard)

SAN FRANCISCO — A battered yacht and its bruised crew limped into port Monday after a giant wave smashed over the stern with such force that it carried away the boat's steering wheel and knocked the crew about like bowling pins.

A Coast Guard cutter reached the Geraldton Western Australia, which was damaged about 400 miles off the San Francisco coast Sunday, and removed two injured crew members while the rest of the sailors decided to press on to finish the longest leg of an around-the-world race. The 68-foot yacht was expected to dock in the wee hours Tuesday morning and become the last of 10 boats to complete a 5,680-mile trek across the Pacific.

"The sea was alive with rage," the boat's captain Juan Coetzer told race organizers, who posted his comments online. "Then at our watch change, just before the sun came up (Saturday), a monstrous foaming swell broke over our stern."

The wave pushed the helmsman Mark Burkes into the steering wheel and its pedestal in gale-force winds of more than 50 knots.

"The water had so much force in it that it pushed Mark into the helm, snapping the pedestal clean off," Coetzer reported. "We had no steering and crew were falling all over the boat."

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