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Deadly Sailboat Accidents A ‘Wake-Up Call’

This Friday, April 27, 2012, photo shows the Aegean with crew members at the start of a 125-mile Newport Beach, Calif. to Ensenada, Mexico yacht race. The 37-foot Aegean, carrying a crew of four, was reported missing Saturday, the U.S. Coast Guard said. The yacht appeared to have collided at night with a much larger vessel, leaving three crew members dead and one missing. (AP /newportbeach.patch.com, Susan Hoffman)

Two deadly sailing accidents off the California coast have many in the sailing community asking what went wrong.

Both incidents occurred during yacht races, and experts say these are the most deadly accidents in more than 30 years.

“[For] race organizers and yacht clubs and race committees around the country it’s a wake-up call,” Gary Jobson, president of the U.S. Sailing Association told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

The first incident was on Saturday April 14th, during the Full Crew Farallones Race when five sailors were killed after their 38-foot sailboat “Low Speed Chase” was hit by powerful waves and tossed onto a rocky island off of San Francisco.

It prompted the Coast Guard to suspend yacht races in the San Francisco Bay area.

Survivor: Like Being In A ‘Washing Machine Filled With Boulders’

Bryan Chong, one of three sailors on “Low Speed Chase” to survive the accident told the San Francisco Chronicle  what happened when his boat was flipped by a wave and thrown against the rocks of South Farallon Island. He spent a terrifying 15 minutes in the water that he said felt like being in a “washing machine filled with boulders.”

Two weeks later, the sailing community was stunned again when the bodies of three sailors were recovered from the wreckage of the 37-foot sailboat “Aegean” off the Mexican border, after the Newport to Ensenada race went horribly wrong.

“It’s very sad that we’ve had these incidents … and it’s perplexing, horrifying, confusing why they happen.”
– Gary Jobson, U.S. Sailing Association president

A fourth sailor remains missing and is presumed dead. A man who saw the wreckage said it looked like the boat had gone through a blender, leading some to think it was hit by a ship, though Jobson discounts that theory.

A Dark Time For Sailing

Such accidents are rare. For both the Newport to Ensenada race, which has been held for 65 years, and for the Full Crew Farallones Race, 100 years and running, these are the first-ever fatalities.

Jobson says that his organization, the U.S. Sailing Association, is trying to figure out what happened.

“Our job [is] appointing independent review panels to a. figure out what exactly happened b. how do our regulations and rules match up and then c. to put down on paper what our recommendations are to try to minimize losses like this.” he said.

“It’s very sad that we’ve had these incidents and you have great compassion for the families and it’s perplexing, horrifying, confusing why they happen.”

Do you sail? Do you think there’s something wrong with the sport? Tell us what you think in the comments section

Guest:

  • Gary Jobson, president of the U.S. Sailing Association

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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