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Injured sailors set to return to San Francisco

April 2, 2012 |  8:46 am

Two sailors injured when a giant wave slammed their yacht during an around-the-world race were expected to arrived in San Francisco on Monday afternoon after being transferred from their damaged boat to a Coast Guard cutter.

Coast Guard officers reached the 68-foot Geraldton Western Australia yacht about 250 miles offshore to assist Jane Hitchens, 50, who suffered broken ribs, and Nik Brbora, 29, who had an injured pelvis.

The British sailors were hurt after a large wave reportedly struck their racing yacht Saturday about 400 miles west of the California coast. They were being treated aboard the cutter, officials said.

The other 11 members of the crew, including two with less serious injuries, remained aboard their vessel, which officials say is functioning and on its way to Oakland. 

Authorities had initially planned to airlift the victims but eventually determined that the boat's rigging and mast presented too great a hazard to the helicopter. They opted for two rescue boats instead.

The sailors were part of a 10-vessel, around-the-world race that was running its sixth leg from Qingdao, China, to California. The 5,680-mile leg is the race’s longest, and officials estimate the journey takes around 33 days.  

Clipper Round the World Race spokesman Jonathan Levy said the rescue cutter is due in San Francisco Bay around 3 p.m.

“It’s a big ocean with a big wave and winds, and injuries do happen,” Levy said. “It’s always great to see everyone safe when there are no casualties, because there is always potential.”

The sailors are due back out on the seas to continue the race April 14.

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— Matt Stevens

Twitter.com/mattstevenslat

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