'I'd never seen someone hit so hard'

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US Sailing’s Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal was awarded in June to the captain and crew of Balder, an Ericson 38-200, for their timely response in rescuing a fellow crewmember who fell overboard during the January 2004 McAllister Creek Race in Olympia, Wash.

US Sailing’s Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal was awarded in June to the captain and crew of Balder, an Ericson 38-200, for their timely response in rescuing a fellow crewmember who fell overboard during the January 2004 McAllister Creek Race in Olympia, Wash.

During the race, crewman Tom Droescher was hit by Balder’s boom during a jibe, knocking him unconscious and into the cold waters of Puget Sound. Fellow crewmembers say the impact was severe.

“I’d never seen someone hit so hard in my life,” Steve Klockow recalls. “Something had happened with the spinnaker. The line got fouled. Tom was standing on the starboard side when the boat jibed and the boom swung around. To me, it was almost like slow motion. Tom was hit in the head, and lifted clear over the life lines and into the water.”

“The winds were squirrelly, gusty that day,” crewman Dwayne Young remembers. “I heard someone yell, ‘Watch the boom,’ and the next thing I knew Tom was unconscious, doing a swan dive into the water.”

Droescher was not wearing a PFD but his layers of clothing apparently trapped air and kept him afloat. Balder’s skipper, John DeMeyer, quickly turned the boat around. When the boat approached the fallen crewman, Young was able to grab Droescher, who had regained consciousness, and pull him closer to the boat. Young and other crewmembers eased Droescher toward the stern and lifted him back onto the boat. Droescher spent about four minutes in the water.

“We had people on board who have lots of experience, who knew exactly what to do,” Klockow says.

Droescher suffered bruising on the side of his neck, jaw and under one eye. Once he was back on the boat, Young says, DeMeyer decided to withdraw from the race.