George Snow, the skipper of the Australia’s best known maxi yacht Brindabella and a former line honours winner in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, used the skipper’s briefing for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual Canon Big Boat Challenge last Friday to thank some of his fellow Canberrans.
Snow, who grew up in Canberra presented a cheque for $20,000 to Wayne Evans, the Executive Officer of the Snowy Hydro SouthCare Aero Medical and Rescue Helicopter Service on behalf of the CYCA’s Safety of Life at Sea Trusts, which were set up following the 1998 Sydney Hobart Race.
Established in October 1998 and based in Canberra, Snowy Hydro SouthCare crews were given an extraordinary baptism of fire just two months later. During the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in December that year they rescued nine stranded sailors from the stricken yachts Stand Aside and Midnight Special.
The SouthCare crew was among the first to be called into what became Australia’s largest maritime rescue operation. Facing the combination of ferocious winds, pelting rain and waves up to 50 feet high, search and rescue efforts were particularly difficult for all involved.
These heroics earned the Service the internationally prestigious AHS Captain William J Kossler Award. Members of the team have also been awarded Bravery Medals and many commendations for their outstanding lifesaving rescues.
“The SOLAS Trust supports rescue organisations Australia-wide and Snowy Hydro SouthCare was a stand-out because of its key role in the 1998 Hobart Race and what they have done since. In the last four years they have undertaken and 1,187 life saving and rescue missions,” said CYCA Rear Commodore Martin James, Chairman of Trustees.
One of the Trust’s aims is to provide assistance to search and rescue organisations. The donation will be used to purchase equipment including Gentex Flight Helmets and a new XTS – 3000 Motorola down the wire portable radio. Other equipment to be purchased includes a Retrieval and 1st Responder pack including oxygen resuscitator equipment.
“This equipment will be very helpful for the team in carrying out their life saving rescues and improve the level of service that can be provided to our patients,” said Wayne Evans in accepting the cheque.
He recalled graphically how two women members of the Helicopter Service had risked their lives in saving the stricken sailors. At one stage, one of them had been briefly knocked out after being hit by the bucking liferaft and had later become entangled with the winching line. Another crew member had fallen out of the helicopter, and was left dangling below the aircraft until one of the sailors had been winched to safety before he climb back into the helicopter.
The SOLAS Trust Funds were established following the loss of six lives in the 1998 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and aim to:
· assist the immediate family of those lost at sea during Australian Yachting Federation sanctioned races
· provide assistance to search and rescue organisations
· foster research and training to improve procedures and equipment for use at sea.
The SOLAS Trusts have previously donated $30,000 to NRMA CareFlight in NSW and $20,000 to RACQ CareFlight in Queensland. Another interstate donation is planned to coincide with the arrival of Rolex Sydney Hobart Race crews in Hobart this year.