Home News Sailors honored for heroic September 2023 rescue in Wilmette

Sailors honored for heroic September 2023 rescue in Wilmette

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The U.S. Sailing Association presented yachting’s highest honor to 5 local sailors, who last September rescued a man overboard under trying conditions.

The ceremony was held at the Sheridan Shore Yacht Club at Wilmette Harbor on Saturday, March 23.

Craig Warner, an avid sailboat racer and boating safety advocate with 40-plus years of racing history, nominated the 5 fellow sailors awarded for their heroism and skill.

“Water is a foreign environment and people don’t realize if you want to fight Lake Michigan, you are never going to win,” Warner said.

A photo taken by rescuer John Kennedy during the rescue that awarded him and four others Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medals. (Photo by John Kennedy)
A photo taken by rescuer John Kennedy during the rescue that awarded him and four others Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medals. (Photo by John Kennedy)

Saturday’s ceremony is important, Warner says, for racers around the world because it honors those who risked their own safety and provides valuable lessons in prevention to future sailors.

The Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal nomination letter noted, the man overboard occurred on September 8, 2023 during the Soling United States National Championship at Wilmette.

The Soling is known as a one design boat, 27 feet long with a crew of three.

Commodore of the Sheridan Shore Yacht Club John Kennedy with David Slaght of Evanston during Saturday's rescue awards ceremony at the Sheridan Shore Yacht Club at Wilmette Harbor. (Photo by Gina Grillo)
Commodore of the Sheridan Shore Yacht Club John Kennedy with David Slaght of Evanston during Saturday’s rescue awards ceremony at the Sheridan Shore Yacht Club at Wilmette Harbor. (Photo by Gina Grillo)

On that Friday afternoon, the incident occurred during the day’s second race, in weather with winds gusting to 20 knots, waves 3 to 4 feet and a water temperature of 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

“A wave hit the boat and changed the angle of the boat to the wind, the boom which holds the main sail hit skipper, Dave Slaght, launching him backwards and into the water,” Warner said.

The five sailors who received the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal were Richard Traub of Wilmette, John Kiener of Evanston, John Kennedy of Evanston, Kent Smith of Glenview and Robert Nickel of Evanston.

The U.S. Sailing Association presented yachting's highest honor to 5 local sailors, who last Sept. rescued a man overboard under trying conditions in a ceremony held at the Sheridan Shore Yacht Club at Wilmette Harbor on Saturday, March 23. (Photo by Gina Grillo)
The U.S. Sailing Association presented yachting’s highest honor to five local sailors, who last September rescued a man overboard under trying conditions in a ceremony held at the Sheridan Shore Yacht Club at Wilmette Harbor on Saturday, March 23. (Photo by Gina Grillo)

U.S. Sailing Association Board Member Matt Gallagher presented the medals.

“Out on the water we have to rely on each other, beyond good sportsmanship and being a good Samaritan, at sea we are obliged to assist someone in peril,” Gallagher said. “This was a successful rescue, but the situation could have quickly turned dire.”

The U.S. Sailing Association presented yachting's highest honor to 5 local sailors, who last Sept. rescued a man overboard under trying conditions in a ceremony held at the Sheridan Shore Yacht Club at Wilmette Harbor on Saturday, March 23. (Photo by Gina Grillo)
The U.S. Sailing Association presented yachting’s highest honor to 5 local sailors, who last Sept. rescued a man overboard under trying conditions in a ceremony held at the Sheridan Shore Yacht Club at Wilmette Harbor on Saturday, March 23. (Photo by Gina Grillo)

Warner said the Hanson Medal is sailing’s highest honor, recognizing the efforts made by fellow racers who risk their health or life to rescue another mariner in distress.

Fellow rescuer John Kiener said they first detected trouble when they were about a half mile away.

“Your best resource is to rely on training and a checklist, because things are happening so quickly that your course of action, is being decided while the reality is changing from fuzzy to clear view,” Kiener said.

Warner says with boating season right around the corner, boaters are anxious to get their boats ready and out on the water. This is a good time to take a step back to put a well-honed safety plan in place.

“One thing for sure, you don’t want your first rescue experience to take place during an emergency,” Warner said. “You want to be ready, you just never know when it can happen to you.”

Gina Grillo is a freelance reporter with Pioneer Press.



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