West Coast Sailing Fatalities: An UpdateBy Chris Landers
Published: June/July 2012
U.S. Sailing has released the preliminary recommendations from its investigation into the five crewmembers of Low Speed Chase killed during the 2012 Crewed Farallones Race in April. The independent review panel will release a full report in June. In the meantime, the U.S. Coast Guard has approved the Spinnaker Cup offshore sailing race scheduled to begin Friday, May 25
The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Sailing are still investigating what happened to the sailboat that was lost during the 125-mile Lexus Newport to Ensenada Race in April off the coast of California. The 37-foot Hunter 376 Aegean wrecked in the early morning hours of April 28. The bodies of three crew members — William Reed Johnson and Kevin Eric Rudolph, of California; and Joseph Lester Stewart, of Florida — were discovered later that day in the two-mile debris field. The body of Aegean skipper Theo Mavromatis, of Redondo Beach, was found by fishermen days later. The San Diego County Medical Examiner listed Stewart's cause of death as drowning, the other men died from blunt-force injuries.
The deaths rocked a sailing community still recovering from an earlier accident during the Full Crew Farallones Race, also in California. Five sailors lost their lives in that incident when their 38-foot Sydney, Low Speed Chase, ran aground in rough seas on the rocky Farallon Islands. The Coast Guard and U.S. Sailing are also investigating the earlier incident.
AEGEAN: Speculation surrounding the loss of Aegean was high in the sailing world. Race organizers originally theorized that the sailboat was struck by a ship, citing reports from other racers of large merchant vessels in the area. A GPS track from the Aegean's Spot tracker shows that someone sent an "okay" signal from the device a few hours before the trail ends at the northern end of Coronado island, a rocky sea cliff. The final signals from the device indicate a steady course toward the finish line, and a speed of around seven knots, which may indicate that the sailboat struck the island and was ground against the rocks. Official investigations may be finished as early as June.
Mavromatis was an experienced skipper, and had completed the race seven times, winning it in 2009. His daughter Anna spoke to Easy Reader News after the accident (http://www.easyreadernews.com/50517/theo-mavromatis/), and said the family took some comfort from knowing that he died doing what he loved.
"Of course if I had it my way, he'd be home by now," she told the web site. "But he did love the sea, and he loved sailing."
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