US Sailing Investigating California Sailing Deaths

US Sailing Investigating California Sailing Deaths


Nine deaths in two separate offshore sailing races originating in California have prompted investigations by US Sailing ( The race tragedies follow last summer’s fatal accident in the 2011 Chicago-Mackinac Race, in which two sailors died, and the near-fatal accident in the 2011 Rolex Fastnet race, which Practical Sailor reported on in the May 2012 issue.

In the first California accident, five of eight crew aboard the Sydney 38 Low Speed Chase were killed on April 14, when a breaking wave struck the boat while rounding South Farallon Island, outside San Francisco Bay. One survivor managed to stay with the boat as it was hurled onto the rocks; the rest of the crew was washed into the water. None were tethered to the boat at the time of the accident.

Investigators are also looking into the cause of the second accident, during the Newport-Ensenada Race off of Southern California. Based on data from a Spot Satellite Tracker that was reportedly on the boat, it is presumed all four crew of the Hunter 376 Aegean were killed when the boat motored into the rocky north end of North Coronado Island shortly after midnight on April 29 in calm conditions.

The Farallones accident prompted the U.S. Coast Guard to call for an unprecedented “stand down” of offshore racing in the San Francisco Bay area. According to a USCG statement, “Recent offshore accidents have highlighted the need to assess offshore race organizers’ safety plans and procedures.”

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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