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Coast Guard Rescues 4 Rowers Off Central Coast Who Attempted Race to Hawaii

The U.S. Coast Guard conducted two high-profile rescues off the California coast over the weekend as several kayakers trying to cross the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii called for help after their boats took on water, with one even capsizing.

Both incidents follow a similar rescue that occurred off the coast of Santa Barbara County earlier this month, when a 57-year-old man ran into equipment problems while trying to kayak from California to Hawaii and was rescued and flown to safety. 

On Saturday, four people in a rowboat were rescued off the coast of San Luis Obispo County after they began taking on water the night before.

The rowers were participating in the Great Pacific Race from Monterey, Calif., to Honolulu, Hawaii, a 2,400-mile journey, and the Coast Guard command center in Alameda received a call at 9 p.m. Friday from the Marine Rescue Coordination Center in Falmouth, England, about a 24-foot rowboat that was taking on water.

MRCC Falmouth received the initial distress notification because the emergency position-indicating radio beacon for the rowboat was registered in England, according to the Coast Guard.

A sailboat functioning as a safe boat for the Great Pacific Race was first on scene, but could not complete the transfer of the rowers due to high winds and rough seas.

The Coast Guard launched a helicopter from Air Station San Francisco and a C-130 plane from Air Station Sacramento, locating the rowers at 1 a.m. and approximately 75 miles west of San Luis Obispo.

The helicopter crew lowered a rescue swimmer to the rowboat, who hoisted three rowers into the helicopter, and the rescue swimmer remained on scene with the fourth rower until the helicopter could refuel and return for both.

At approximately 4 a.m., the fourth rower was taken to Monterey Regional Airport, and all four rowers are reportedly in good condition and did not require further medical attention. 

Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Leon, an Air Station San Francisco rescue swimmer, called it " the most challenging rescue I've ever had," due to darkness and rough seas.

On Sunday, the Coast Guard rescued a solo rower, also participating in the Great Pacific Race, who contacted the agency at 2 a.m. after capsizing multiple times due to unexpectedly rough seas and high winds.

The rowboat was approximately 52 miles west of Morro Bay and the rower remained in continuous communication with the Coast Guard until the helicopter crew arrived on scene around 6:12 a.m.

A rescue swimmer was also lowered to the rowboat and the rower was hoisted into the helicopter after he was determined to be in stable condition.

The rower was transferred to awaiting emergency medical crews at Monterey Regional Airport, and had increased his chances of survival by filing a float plan, bringing a satellite phone and the appropriate gear, according to the statement.

"Coast Guard officials are working closely with race organizers to monitor participant progress and help ensure the remainder of the event is as safe as possible," the statement said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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