Anthony Hardy returned to Eden on Saturday for the 50th celebrations of the Eden Ambulance Service.
Mr Hardy was an ambulance officer at the station from 1997 to 2000.
He was one of four former police and ambulance officers presented with medals and certificates by NSW Governor Marie Bashir on behalf of the Royal Humane Society of NSW, for rescuing an injured crewman from the yacht Renegade during the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in 1998.
Bronze medals were awarded to Senior Constable Brad Ross, Eden Police and Anthony Hardy, Eden Ambulance Service.
Certificates of Merit were awarded to Senior Constable Francis O’Brien, formerly of Merimbula Police, and ambulance officer Terry Gates, also of Eden Ambulance Service.
The disastrous 1998 Sydney to Hobart fleet comprised 115 starters. Of these, only 44 yachts completed the race, after severe weather conditions struck the fleet off the south-eastern Australian coast. An unusually strong low pressure depression developed which resulted in mid-summer snow across parts of south-east Australia. The weather system built into an exceptionally strong storm with winds reaching up to 70 knots, similar in strength to a lower-category Tropical cyclone. 55 sailors had to be airlifted from their yachts by rescue helicopter. Rescue efforts involved 35 military and civilian aircraft and 27 Royal Australian Navy vessels.
The Magnet caught up with Anthony at the weekend.
Here, he re-tells the story of that night:
“Terry (Gates) and I worked three-and-a-half days continually.
“As people came in, we took them off the boats and ferried them to hospital, with dislocated shoulders and limb fractures and so on.
“They were still able to bring the boats in.
“Then we got called to a boat (Renegade) that had done a 360 rollover and had lost all power.
“Water police had been told by mobile phone that they were coming in, and that the helmsman had stopped breathing during the rollover but was resuscitated and was currently breathing unconscious, and could we meet them, but then they lost all power and we lost all contact with them.
“The phone went dead. All we knew was the name of the boat.
“We had a meeting with the Water Police; this was early evening that this came in, 9 or 10 at night.
“In the conditions, and with the description of the patient, we couldn’t afford to sit and wait until daylight.
“So Terry and I went with the police launch, which in those days was only an 18 foot, fibreglass shark cat with a half cabin on it.
“We went out and I remember we were going to all the boats that hadn’t been able to tie up from the race, scattered through Twofold Bay, they were anchored anywhere where they could get shelter, because the storm was still blowing through the heads.
“As we were going through, I watched on the radar, and where there was a boat, we had to get close enough to get a spotlight on it, to see if it was the right boat, meanwhile trying not to get flipped over.
“The police were so good; I had complete faith in them.
“They’re professionals; they were doing their job professionally.
“It was a dangerous situation but we were within the boundaries of what we could do.
“Eventually we got a call back to another patient and Terry went back but I went back out with the police launch and crossed the bay in the launch, then we found the yacht right underneath north head.
“It had just got underneath north head into the shelter from the gale force winds.
“I got on to the boat, managed to stabilise the patient and get him back into town.
“That was one of the big things, after the Olympics, they dedicated one of the police launches down here after the Olympics.
“Running around in a little 18-foot shark cat wasn’t a good option.”