Ascension Sacred Heart nurses sail the high seas with world-class sailing team | Ascension

Ascension Sacred Heart nurses sail the high seas with world-class sailing team


Ascension Sacred Heart nurses provide medical support to the American Magic competitive sailing team in Pensacola, Florida.

Dwight Gobeli’s passion for nursing and racing sailboats converged at Pensacola Bay last August when America’s world-class sailing team asked him to helm their medical team while training locally. 

“I’m living my dream,” said Dwight, an RN in the interventional radiology catheterization lab at Ascension Sacred Heart Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida. Dwight’s been sailing for almost as long as he’s been a nurse. “I’ve been following America’s Cup for years and always wanted to get a chance to be a part of it, even if it was a small part.”

His opportunity to be a part of history came calling when the American Magic sailing team contacted Tom Pace, the Commodore at the Pensacola Yacht Club, looking for local medical support. Dwight, a member of the Pensacola Yacht Club, who has provided medical support for sailing events, such as the USA Junior Olympic held at the yacht club, was at the top of the list.

“I told American Magic that my schedule wouldn’t allow me to be in the water every time they sailed, but I would provide them with the best trauma nurses in Pensacola in my absence,” he said. He reached out to ER nurses Jeff Owens, RN, Johnathon Noski, RN, and Be Gobeli, RNat Ascension Sacred Heart who have trauma experience to participate. Dwight’s wife, Be, is an experienced sailboat racer, and an ER charge nurse. “Be told me that if I got to be a part of American Magic, I’d better find a way to get her on board or find a new wife. I wasn’t left with much of a choice.”

Dwight believes the medical skills nurses develop in a fast-paced ER environment like teamwork, multitasking, thinking and acting quickly and keeping calm can easily translate to providing medical care to the racing team: Since Dwight is the senior medical officer, he developed emergency protocols for the crew and medical team. Dwight also oversaw basic life support and CPR training. While the medical team is prepared for worst-case scenarios, Dwight said the most common injuries on the boat are lacerated fingers.

On a typical day, a medical team member is on one of three chase boats chasing the 75-foot high-tech yacht that can fly 10 feet above the water on hydrofoils, reaching up to 51 knots (approximately 61 miles per hour). The boat uses leg power to increase wind speed: “cyclors” pedal on stationary bikes powering the yacht’s hydraulic systems.

American Magic will practice in Pensacola until May 12 and then head to Barcelona, Spain, the location of the 37th America’s Cup, the competition for the oldest trophy in international sport, dating back to 1851. The U.S. held America’s Cup for 132 years until losing to Australia in 1983. American Magic hopes to reclaim the magic as one of five challengers competing against the defender’s Emirates Team New Zealand.

Dwight and Be hope to be in Barcelona watching American Magic sail in America’s Cup. If not, they will be watching the team with pride from Pensacola, knowing they were a small part of something greater. 

“In the movie ‘Wind,’ there’s a line that stuck with me: ‘When you get a chance to be a part of something bigger than yourself, you take it,’” he said. “The chance to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, working with racing’s best of the best, is an experience I will never forget.”