A 47-foot sailboat returning home Saturday after completing a 456-mile St. Petersburg to Mexico race lost its rudder in heavy seas and spent nearly two days adrift before being rescued by the Coast guard.
The Jade CruChu, skippered by well-known local sailor Jopie Helsen, left Isla Mujeres, north of Cozumel, on Friday and soon encountered 10-foot seas and 30-knot winds.
The Helsen 470 lost its rudder, and the crew activated an EPIRB at 3:40 a.m. on Sunday. The Coast Guard received the distress signal and dispatched an HC130 airplane from the Coast Guard Air Station-Clearwater.
While the plane was searching, a notice was issued to mariners to watch for the crippled vessel, which was eventually seen by a commercial ship.
A second airplane from Mobile, Ala., made contact with the sailboat at 10 a.m. Monday. Three hours later, the Harriet Lane, a 270-foot cutter on routine patrol in the central Gulf of Mexico, intercepted the Jade CruChu about 400 miles south of Panama City.
Helsen, and four members of his crew, stayed with the racing yacht while it was slowly towed back to St. Petersburg.
The boat is expected back off Pinellas County today.