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Direction Finder Helps Clipper Rescue

Rockwell Collins : 06 May, 2010  (Application Story)
The US Coast Guard has carried out a successful rescue mission in the Clipper round the world yacht race with the help of a DF-430 Direction Finder from Rockwell Collins
The rescue at sea of the 19-member crew of the California during the Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race is the latest example of how the Rockwell Collins DF-430 Direction Finder is helping the US Coast Guard find vessels in distress - and helping to save lives.

Following is the account of the recent rescue:

The 68-foot stripped down racing yacht ran into a fierce Pacific Ocean storm on March 21 as the yacht raced from Qingdao in China across the Pacific to San Francisco, and was disabled when it was rolled 120 degrees by a huge wave, which broke its mast and injured one of the crew members. Because the wave took out all of the electronics and communication equipment, the emergency locator beacon was activated, enabling a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft, outfitted with the DF-430 Direction Finder, to locate the disabled vessel. The Kodiak, Alaska rescue crew flew 1,200 miles to the south and picked up the emergency signal from 175 miles away and nearly 50 miles from the reported position.

Once Coast Guard personnel reached the distressed vessel, they dropped a VHF radio within two meters of the California so that the crew could communicate with rescuers; this was very helpful since the crew's own handheld unit was running out of battery power. The Coast Guard then overflew a yacht participating in the competition and communicated the situation to its crew, who relayed the situation to the race organizers. The Coast Guard then asked the merchant ship Nord Nightingale, on passage from Yokohama to Los Angeles, to divert and take the injured crew member onboard - he is now making a full recovery. Eventually, the crew of the California was able to perform makeshift repairs and sail into San Francisco.

The California is skippered by Cape Town-based Pete Rollason, who said, 'Seeing the U.S. Coast Guard C-130 overhead was a great moment for me and my crew, and we were all so impressed with the professionalism and efficiency shown by them. The Clipper Race is unique in that the crews come from all walks of life with varying levels of sailing experience. They knew it would be the challenge of a lifetime, but I think they got a bit more than they bargained for on this occasion.'

The DF-430 system was introduced in 2007 and is being installed on all Coast Guard aircraft. The system enables aircraft to receive and immediately locate activated 406 MHz Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) signals, thus, allowing Coast Guard crews to go directly to people in distress.

Coast Guard Lt. Commander Mike Woodrum said, 'Using the new direction finder, we were able to fly to the vessel's precise position, saving time and fuel. A visual search of the waters in the rough sea conditions would have been extremely difficult and there's a significant chance we wouldn't have been able to find the vessel without these tools.'

The DF-430 gives Coast Guard rescuers the ability to home in on a signal from far greater distances than previously available - allowing them to pinpoint the location of distressed vessels from as far away as 200 nautical miles. Before the DF-430 was introduced, rescue aircraft had to be within a few miles of vessels before they could pick up the older standard distress signals. Less searching makes it possible to execute faster rescue missions -something that a person would appreciate if stranded or possibly in need of medical assistance.

'Over the years, we've built a tremendous relationship with the Coast Guard by providing them with a variety of systems and products, along with logistics support, to help them carry out their missions every day,' said Bruce King, vice president and general manager of Surface Solutions for Rockwell Collins. 'It is very satisfying for our employees to know that more than 100 rescues have been made possible by using our equipment.'
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