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WIND CHILD'S MID-OCEAN MIRACLE never use the engine or autopilot. So it's bitterly ironic that the one time they really needed the iron jib, it was unavailable to them.

What sort of man would jump out an airplane at night in the middle of the ocean to save a complete stranger's life? One with a heart of gold and super-sized cojones.

T

CAL ANG / CAP PALMERSTON

he idea of sailing right alongside the ship was discussed but abandoned due to the rough sea conditions, as was the idea of having Wind Child sail close enough to the ship to retrieve tow lines, so Kalahar and the PJs could be transfered via a liferaft. P l a n D , h o w e v e r, proved to be a winner: the Cap Palmerston cut her power and drifted, trailing her 6-person inflatable liferaft on a long tether behind her, which the Wind Child crew was meant to snag. Having raced for years in Puget Sound, competed in several Hawaii races, and cruised in Mexico, Heessels is an expert helmsman in all conditions. So, despite the increasing wind and rain, he was able to zig-zag back and forth behind the ship while Hendricks and Taylor trimmed. After a couple of tries, one of the PJs

Rescue jumpers coach the cargo ship's crew, as the wounded sailor is slowly hoisted aboard the 'Cap Palmerston'.

grabbed the raft and began reeling in its towline. On the boat's blog, Taylor later explained, "In an outstanding, and heroic demonstration of sailboat handling, Rudy was able to keep our boat in position, and far enough away from the ship to allow the transfer of patient, jumpers

WHO WERE THOSE GUYS?

USCG / PO 3CL HENRY G. DUNPHY

You need guts, brawn and brains to

become a pararescueman, plus an inordinate sense of compassion for others, as symbolized by their chilling motto: "That others may live." In addition to their primary mission during wartime — treating and recovering downed pilots behind enemy lines — they occasionally assist in civilian rescues in remote locations (such as this one), and have been used to recover NASA astronauts after water landings. Their training, as part of the Air Force Special Tactics community, is incredibly intense. They have to be tough enough to endure Navy SEAL training and sharp enough to become proficient in advanced medical training. (Sorry, but this specialty is not currently open to women.) The PJs' two-year instructional program is known as "the Pipeline" or, perhaps more appropriately, "Superman School," as only the fittest of the fit survive it. In fact, the dropout, or washout, rate is said to be the highest of any U.S. military Special Ops program.

Think you've got the stones and the stamina to make the cut? If so, see if you can pass the PAST (the Physical Abilities and Stamina Test). It's sort of a Special Ops SAT test — only a tad more physical. The following are the bare minimum physical requirements for acceptance into the program: • Swim 25 meters underwater on one breath • Swim 1,000 meters sidestroke or freestyle in 26 minutes or less • Run 1.5 miles in under 10 minutes and 30 seconds • Do eight chin-ups in a minute or less • Do 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes or less • Do 50 push-ups in 2 minutes or less • Complete 50 flutter kicks in 2 minutes or less Piece of cake, right? And that's just to get your toe in the door. Those who do pass the rigorous training wear distinctive maroon berets. If you see one, give a salute and say thanks. May, 2010 •

Latitude 38

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Latitude 38 May 2010  

The May 2010 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.

Latitude 38 May 2010  

The May 2010 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.