Skip to main content

Luck in the Pacific

Guy Wilding has been out for a paddle in his 18-foot kayak every day for months, since moving to Honolulu from Sydney, Australia. July 20 seemed like any other day under the blue skies of the tradewinds until, as luck would have it, his paddle broke and he was dumped into the drink. This wasn't good, but Wilding swam to the kayak and grabbed on. He tried to get in - to "rescue," in kayak-speak -

Guy Wilding has been out for a paddle in his 18-foot kayak every day for months, since moving to Honolulu from Sydney, Australia. July 20 seemed like any other day under the blue skies of the tradewinds until, as luck would have it, his paddle broke and he was dumped into the drink. This wasn't good, but Wilding swam to the kayak and grabbed on. He tried to get in - to "rescue," in kayak-speak - but it didn't happen. So there he was. Minutes went by. The tide was outbound, carrying him away from the beach, away from the lovely island of Oahu, upwind against the oncoming waves, toward oblivion. Without a paddle, he really couldn't do anything about it. His first thought: "I'm in trouble."

An hour went by.

Another hour.

Another.

By hour number four, with the afternoon deepening, you know this was feeling desperate. Guy knew his wife, Shelley, would surely be worried by now. But he really couldn't do anything about that, either.

A sail appeared on the horizon.

As luck would have it, the sail was coming his way. More time went by. The sail was still coming his way. Guy Wilding did what he could to make himself conspicuous, but it is easy in a seaway to be blocked from view by a wave at what could be the critical moment. Would the people on the sailboat be alert? Would they be looking around them at all?

As luck would have it, yes. They were more than alert, they were keen. The boat was a Swan 441, coming in to finish the 2,225-mile Transpacific Yacht Race, from Los Angeles to Honolulu. They had been at sea since July 4. Mary Howard, one of nine in the crew, put it well: "It's a good thing he was wearing red. We were looking for a red buoy."

The Transpac has been finishing at Diamond Head since the 1906 inaugural. The Diamond Head Buoy is red. Randy Alcorn, an ocean kayaker himself, saw something red, but not a buoy. What he saw was "this fellow trying to get into a kayak, and it just wasn't going to work. He was waving. I knew we had a rescue on our hands."

With Transpac sailors required to practice recovering overboards before they start the race, Philip Sauer's team was ready. They dropped the sails and cranked up the motor, all while keeping one crewmember assigned to the job of never taking an eye off the man in the water—the man who was growing steadily moredistant. When the crew was finally able to turn back, under power, it still seemed like forever before they were able to reach their man. But when they did they immediately deployed a Life Sling - SOP - and ran a circle around Guy Wilding, which brought the sling right to him. "It went by the book," Mary Howard said of her crew’s efforts to bring Wilding aboard.

Then the crew was able to haul Wilding aboard, only slightly hypothermic and probably, as he assessed it, not needing medical attention. He would know. As luck would have it, Guy Wilding is the kayak coach of the Sprint National Team that will soon be seeking to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. He's a big, strong athlete and savvy when it comes to the physio side of the game.

With any other rescue, Wilding could have come quietly ashore, thanked his rescuers and enjoyed a tearful reunion with Shelley, who had missed her husband and been trying to convince doubting authorities that he must be in danger. But as luck would have it, Wilding was rescued by a boat racing in a media event, the Transpac, the classic race of the Pacific Ocean, and his reunion with Shelley and their young daughter, Kali,took place in front of the cameras. Their sobs brought home just how "other" the outcome could have been.

As luck would have it, the boat's name is Second Chance.

And as luck would have it, the owners of Second Chance, Phil and Sarah Sauer, are joining the Wildings as new residents of Honolulu.

It’s a heck of a way to get to know the neighbors.

And as sure as my name is Kimball Livingston, it was one hell of a hug…

For more on Transpac 2011, including complete results, click here.

Related

Rescue

Cruising: Safety Lessons Learned

It’s not often that sailors get a chance to put their rescue and MOB training to the test, rarer still that they do as quickly as newbie California sailor Khosrow “Koz” Khosravani did recently. If and when an emergency situation ever arises, though, it pays to be prepared. This ...read more

01-LEAD-'22.01.10_FALKEN-Maiden_Emma-Bow

At the Helm: Sailplans

The first thing you notice when you look at the sailplan for the Farr 65, Falken, which Mia and I recently added to the fleet here at 59-North, is the sheer number of headsails. Falken was built in 1999 as a racing boat to go around the world, and the crew would have carried the ...read more

01-PR-2-Throwing-it-Back-_©LaurensMorel

Racing Class Reunion

Where does an old VO70 go to retire? Right back to the racing circuit, apparently. This spring saw a remarkable contingent of Volvo Ocean Race one designs back on the water and duking it out on the Caribbean circuit. While it’s no surprise that some of the VO65 teams intending ...read more

05-Sailboats-moored-in-sheltered-waters-off-of-Kärrsön

Charter: Sweden

With 2,000 miles of coastline, 270,000 islands and seemingly countless bays and inlets, Sweden is truly a sailor’s paradise. One of the top sailing destinations here is the archipelago just outside the country’s second largest city Gothenburg (locally known as Göteborg), on the ...read more

fa70b13c-8eec-4c35-b30f-f89e497b469a

Crowdsourcing Age-of-Sail Weather Data

Although big, multi-million-dollar projects like the Large Hadron Collider and the human genome project with their legions of PHD’s tend to grab headlines, there’s still a part of play for the “citizen scientists” of the world. Amateur birders have long contributed to an ...read more

01-LEAD-Ultime-race-Yvan-Zedda,-OC-Sport-Pen-Duick

Ultims to Race Solo Around the World

For years now, maxi-trimarans, both solo-sailed and fully crewed, have been racing the clock on their own around the world in an effort to set ever faster records for the world’s fastest circumnavigation under sail. Back in 2000-01 there was also a no-holds-barred ...read more

P1-01-LEAD-018_CARYNBDAVIS_AMISTAD

Juneteenth on the Water

Discovering Amistad and Mystic Seaport Museum have partnered to organize their third annual Juneteenth festival, featuring concerts, speakers and a reflection on the lasting legacy of racial injustice in America. Declared a National Holiday in 2021, Juneteenth celebrates the end ...read more

Lead-2021-01-17-vue-03-34-av-tb-01

New Multihulls for 2022

Lagoon 51 In keeping with many of the more recently launched models created by French multihull builder Lagoon, the Lagoon 51 is all about comfort, “en plein air,” in particular, as the French might say. Topside, a whopping 80 percent of the boat’s flybridge is given over to ...read more