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3 Dead, 1 Missing in Yacht Race Accident-gctid376424

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    3 Dead, 1 Missing in Yacht Race Accident-gctid376424

    This has been a horrible month for boats along the California coast. Again, another tragedy that could have been prevented. Very sad.

    April 29, 2012

    3 Dead, 1 Missing in Yacht Race Accident


    ENSENADA, Mexico (AP) ÔÇö A 37-foot racing yacht was reduced to debris that looked "like it had gone through a blender," a searcher said Sunday after the boat apparently collided with a larger vessel, killing three sailors and leaving a fourth missing.

    The U.S. Coast Guard, the Mexican navy and civilian vessels scoured the waters off the shore of both countries for the missing sailor before suspending their search Sunday evening.

    The crew of four sailors was aboard the Aegean, which was reported Saturday during a 124-mile race from Newport Beach, Calif., to Ensenada, Mexico.

    It was California's second deadly accident this month involving an ocean race.

    Race officials said they had few explanations for what may have happened to the Aegean other than it must have collided with a ship like a freighter or tanker that did not see the smaller vessel.

    If the smaller boat was bobbing around in light wind, the crew might not have been able to get out of the way of a larger ship, said Rich Roberts, a spokesman for the Newport Ocean Sailing Association, the race organizer.

    The race goes through shipping lanes and it's possible for a large ship to hit a sailboat and not even know it, especially at night, Roberts said.

    The Coast Guard said conditions were fine for sailing, with good visibility and moderate ocean swells of 6-to-8 feet. Officials had not yet determined the cause of the accident, and would not speculate late Sunday on what ship, if any, might have collided with the sailboat.

    A race tracking system indicated the Aegean disappeared about 1:30 a.m. PDT (4:30 a.m. EDT) Saturday, he added.

    Other yachts near the Coronado Islands in Mexico ÔÇö four small, mostly uninhabited islands ÔÇö reported seeing debris Saturday morning.

    Two of the dead were William Reed Johnson Jr., 57, of Torrance, Calif., and Joseph Lester Stewart, 64, of Bradenton, Fla. The San Diego County Medical Examiner's office was withholding the name of the third sailor pending notification of relatives.

    Calls to Johnson's and Stewart's homes went unanswered Sunday.

    The Aegean is registered to Theo Mavromatis, 49, of Redondo Beach, Calif. The race association didn't know if he was aboard, but Gary Gilpin at Marina Sailing, which rents out the Aegean when Mavromatis isn't using it, said the 49-year-old skipper took the yacht out earlier in the week for the competition.

    Gilpin said Mavromatis, an engineer, was an experienced sailor who had won the Newport to Ensenada race in the past. A woman answering a call at a number listed for Mavromatis declined to answer questions.

    Eric Lamb was the first to find debris of the boat ÔÇö most no larger than six inches ÔÇö scattered over about two square miles Saturday as he worked safety patrol on the race. He saw a small refrigerator, a white seat cushion and empty containers of yogurt and soy milk.

    "We pulled a lot of boats off the rocks over the years and boats that hit the rocks, they don't look like that. This was almost like it had gone through a blender," said Lamb, 62.

    A Coast Guard helicopter circling overhead directed him and a partner to two floating bodies. Both had severe cuts and bruises, and one of them had major head trauma.

    Two race participants who were in the area at the time the Aegean disappeared said they saw or heard a freighter.

    Cindy Arosteguy of Oxnard, Calif., remembers hearing on her radio someone say, "Do you see us?" as she saw a tanker about a half-mile away.

    "I got back on the radio and said, 'Yes, I see you,'" she said. "It was definitely a freighter."

    In Ensenada, several hundred people held a minute of silence for the victims at an awards ceremony that spilled out in a courtyard from a large white canopy at a hotel that served as race headquarters.

    Chuck Iverson, commodore of the sailing association, said in an interview that the collision was a "fluke," noting how common night races are along Mexico's Baja California coast.

    "We're all shocked by this whole event," he said.

    The deaths are the first fatalities in the race's 65 years, the sponsor said.

    Racing boats are required to use lights at night, Iverson said, although the boats are not inspected unless a competitor

    suspects a problem and tells race officials.

    The race attracts sailors of all skills, including some who are new to long distances.

    "You get world-class sailors and you get first-timers. That's the good thing about it. ... It's kind of a safety-in-numbers thing," said Lamb, who has worked safety patrol for eight years.

    The Newport Beach Patch website posted a photo of the Aegean's crew at the start of the race Friday. Four men in royal blue T-shirts are on the deck as the boat cuts through calm waters.

    A total of 213 boats were registered, and the winner, Robert Lane of Long Beach Yacht Club, finished Saturday in 23 hours, 26 minutes, 40 seconds.

    A small crowd gathered in the morning fog at an Ensenada marina to watch the remaining boats finish Sunday morning.

    A notice tacked to a bulletin board alongside the racing times informed spectators of the tragedy.

    The deaths come two weeks after five sailors died in the waters off Northern California when their 38-foot yacht was hit by powerful waves, smashed into rocks and capsized during a race. Three sailors survived the wreck and the body of another was quickly recovered. Four remained missing until one body was recovered Thursday.

    The accident near the Farallon Islands, about 27 miles west of San Francisco, prompted the Coast Guard to temporarily stop races in ocean waters outside San Francisco Bay. The Coast Guard said the suspension will allow it and the offshore racing community to study the accident and race procedures to determine whether changes are needed to improve safety. U.S. Sailing, the governing body of yacht racing, is leading the safety review, which is expected to be completed within the next month.

    In 1979, a freak storm in the Irish Sea led to the deaths of 15 sailors in the Fastnet Race. In the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race off Australia, a storm with hurricane-force winds struck the fleet in the Bass Strait, sinking several boats and killing six sailors.

    Gary Jobson, president of the U.S. Sailing Association, said there have been too many accidents during races in the past year, and that the association is working to make the sport safer.

    "I'm horrified. I've done a lot of sailboat racing and I've hit logs in the water, and I've seen a man go overboard, but this takes the whole thing to a new level," Jobson said. "We need to take a step back and take a deep breath with what we're doing. Something is going wrong here."

    Jobson said U.S. Sailing will appoint an independent panel to investigate the Ensenada incident, as it has done in the Farallon Islands accident.


    Contributing AP reporters are Christopher Weber and Daisy Nguyen in Los Angeles, Bernie Wilson in San Diego, and Jason Dearen in San Francisco.

    Can't imagine how this can happen unless it was pilot error by the sailboat.

    My neighbor in Maine is an engineer on a bulk carrier ship that runs from New Orleans to Portland, OR and back. On the way back from Oregon when they got to the Panama canal, they were stopped and asked what happen to their anchor. It was the mast of a sailboat tangled in its anchor... There was never any report of missing sailors or anything... It was estimated the sailboat was well in excess of 40 ft and more like 60+

    One other time, I was part of a crew sailing a 44 ft Luders sailboat to St Michaels in the Chesapeake Bay at night and was the navigator (1974). I popped up out of the cabin to get some bearings of a couple of flashing lighted bouys and a light house. I could not see the light house to starboard and looked really hard when I spotted a container ship blocking the light. I yelled to my friend on the helm to turn port NOW!!! As he turned, we where pushed further to port as the anchor of the bow went almost over the top of us. By the time we were about half way down the side of the ship is when we heard the thump thump thump of the engines... Needless to say, my friend was relegated to navigation and I took the helm...
    Doug ;}
    MMSI: 338068776
    "Go Aweigh to" Photos < click on red letters... 2001 Bayliner 2452 w/6.2 HO (paid for)



      I have done the Farallon race many times and we all know the skipper of the Sydney 38 "Low Speed Chase" got too close to the island and into the ground swells which lead to the accident that killed five people. I can only assume the skipper of the Hunter 37 on the Encinada race also lost track of a ship and got run over. Both of these accidents could and should have been avoided.
      2002 Carver Voyager 57
      "Making Waves"
      3988 250 Hinos
      "The Dark Side"
      Alameda, California


        Especially at night. Slow boats have to especially cautious at night as they don't have the speed to rapidly get out of the way of a large ship moving a 22 knts. years ago while doing the Anu Nuevo race we encountered a ship while approaching the ship channel out side the gate at night. I got into a argument about whether we would have to take it's stern with the helmsman. the helmsman thought we had plenty of time to pass in front of the ship. As it turned out we had no option as the ship passed in front of us. Both of us were surprised at how fast the ship was and how close we were to it. Nights are deceptive.


          Is this a common ocurrance in sailing? Reluctance to changing course despite larger ship being on a collision course with you? Simple rule, if in doubt pass at stern. Why gamble if you gonna make it or not. I know many sailors think of right of way when under sails but a large ship simply cannot stop or change course rapidly.


            GrindKore wrote:
            Is this a common ocurrance in sailing? Reluctance to changing course despite larger ship being on a collision course with you?
            No, it is not a common occurance, the rule of gross tonnage usually gets the sailboats skippers attention real fast
            2002 Carver Voyager 57
            "Making Waves"
            3988 250 Hinos
            "The Dark Side"
            Alameda, California


              A few things about this incident puzzle me:

              1. A Hunter 37 can be very easily seen on radar. It has enough mass and metal to reflect the signal. I have not read about the freighter initiating contact with it.

              2. There is no mention of the freighter that hit it. From AIS records, all boats equipped with transponders in that respective location at that given time could be identified.

              3. Why was the boat shredded to pieces? Here is a link with a video of a freighter hitting a sailboat. The sailboat must have gotten sucked up and shredded by the props on the freighter.


                I have some expirenced kayaker friends that cross from San Pedro Ca. to Catalina Island at night to take advantage of cool calm conditions. They told a story of holding up for over a hour trying to track the direction and speed of a freighter. It's not that obvious from a distance at night with no visable referances . They had the luxury of time there was no race involved. They took advantage of the time to be cautious and rest from the long paddle. There was no close call but a little scarry for them. The freighters travel faster than you might think.

                I can imagine in a race, the winning attitude might change some of the decisions.


                  I have nothing too add too the thread except that I know that boat. I have seen it moored over at Avalon, Catalina Island over the last several years. This is tragic, and a complete waste of life.