A Clipper Round the World Yacht Race crew member has been airlifted off the IchorCoal yacht in the North Atlantic Ocean in a challenging helicopter rescue.

IchorCoal crew member Chris Drummond, 62, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire had complained of severe chest pains yesterday but was stabilised after receiving care from one of the team’s two on board medics, a consultant anesthetist.

The decision to carry out a medical evacuation of the crew member from the racing yacht to Canada was made as precaution based on advice from specialist remote telemedicine doctors at ClipperTelemed+, the race’s emergency medical support partner.

The rescue was carried out by the Canadian Defense Department.

Due to the strong prevailing conditions around 220 miles from the Nova Scotian coast, Canada, the primary rescue plan had to be abandoned, and the secondary plan implemented with two helicopter crew lowered on to help winch Chris off into the Rescue 913 helicopter at 0914 UTC on Friday.

Chris was then transferred to Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Halifax where he is undergoing tests.

IchorCoal Skipper Rich Gould praised his crew following the medevac and described the difficult and delicate rescue operation which involved two Cormorant rescue helicopters.

‘This might be an amateur race, but from what I have seen from my team in the past 24 hours I can assure the crew are anything but!

‘The total time of the whole operation was little more than 30 minutes from when Rescue 913 began to track us for the primary plan. Once we changed to the secondary plan it took 14 minutes from the time that we made contact with their guide line. It was very impressive stuff – 14 minutes to lower two men, collect the casualty and extract all three people.

‘I must say a massive thank you to all involved in the rescue, everyone from the Clipper Race team to the doctors at ClipperTelemed+, each operator that I was in contact with from Falmouth, UK, the USA and Canada, both on the phone and via email, the air crews of both the C130 and Rescue 913 and of course the winchmen that came down on the wire.

‘Myself and the crew would like to wish Chris a swift recovery. We are thinking of you,’ Rich added.

The IchorCoal Clipper Race yacht. Credit: onEdition

Credit: onEdition

The IchorCoal team is now motoring back to the position where it ceased racing and will restart the race to Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland, following the race start from New York on Monday evening.

Final leg

The crew, and the 11 other competing teams are now on their final leg of the 40,000 nautical mile journey which concludes in London on Saturday 30 July.

In 2015, Clipper Ventures and PRAXES Medical Group launched the global joint venture ClipperTelemed+ to provide remote medical support to international seafarers and adventurers in some of the world’s most inhospitable areas.

Doctors at the PRAXES HQ in Halifax, Canada, responded to the satellite phone call from on board IchorCoal and gave medical advice remotely. Simultaneously the doctors also worked directly with Canada’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre and their Search & Rescue team to help manage a helicopter medevac as soon as the yacht was within range.

ClipperTelemed+ spokesman John Hockin said: ‘With no other supporting symptoms that could have positively identified a more minor condition, ClipperTelemed+ doctors quickly chose to call for an immediate diversion towards Halifax, Canada, whilst providing advice for the Skipper and on board medic to help care for Chris in the short term.

‘All of us at ClipperTelemed+ and PRAXES are extremely proud in the way our doctors manage a remote situation and make the essential call to medevac when it is necessary.

He added: ‘We wish Chris Drummond a speedy recovery in hospital in Halifax and the crew of Ichorcoal a safe trip to Derry-Londonderry.’

During the Clipper 2015-16 Race, torn torsos have been sutured, broken bones set, what was feared to be a heart attack correctly diagnosed as heat exhaustion thus preventing a medevac, extreme pain relief administered for gall stones, and countless minor bumps and scrapes have been treated efficiently with the expert advice from ClipperTelemed+ doctors.

The IchorCoal yacht has suffered two tragedies during the 2015/16 race: London businesswoman Sarah Young was swept overboard after being knocked down by two successive waves in April, while London paramedic Andrew Ashman was knocked unconscious and died in September.

Sarah Young IchorCoal

Sarah Young

Andrew Ashman

Andrew Ashman.Credit onEdition

Skipper of IchorCoal Darren Ladd stepped down from the post after the yacht’s arrival in Seattle in April. Fellow Briton Rich Gould took offer the role as Skipper.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said at the time: ‘We are fully supportive of Darren who I know has made his decision with a heavy heart but I believe it is in the best interests of him and his team. He will continue with the company and be able to work with us back in the UK after the Seattle stopover.’

The Clipper 2015-16 Race marks the 10th edition of the event which was established by record-breaking yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston to allow anyone, regardless of previous sailing history, the chance to experience ocean racing.

More than 700 amateur crew members are competing in the 2015-16 edition, representing 44 different nationalities.