Byline: Associated Press/Daisy Nguyen
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A sailor died and five others had to be rescued after sending an emergency call during a race — although they initially declined help from the Coast Guard and other boaters — as their sailboat drifted in rough seas toward a rocky island shore off Southern California, authorities said March 9.
The crew of Uncontrollable Urge radioed a mayday call around 9:26 p.m. Friday, March 8 after the 32-foot sailboat lost its steering capability and the craft began drifting toward San Clemente Island, where it then broke apart, Coast Guard Petty Officer Connie Gawrelli said.
The crew’s radio provided authorities their GPS coordinates and other crucial information, but they initially reported they did not require a rescue. They instead requested aid from a commercial assistance provider, which was unable to respond due to the weather conditions, Gawrelli said.
One of the organizers of the two-day Islands Race said the crew encountered more bad luck when attempts to deploy a life raft and anchor the boat failed. The crew abandoned ship when the boat entered the surf line and broke apart.
“They were not in immediate danger and thought they would be able to manage completing the race and get assistance on their own,” said Charles B. Hope Jr., commodore of San Diego Yacht Club. “Then things got worse.”
He said the boat was buffeted by 8-foot swells and wind gusts of up to 30 knots.
When the Coast Guard reached the crew, they found 36-year-old Craig Thomas Williams unresponsive in the water, the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office said. He and the other five crewmembers were hoisted into a helicopter and flown to a hospital.
The survivors were treated for cuts, bruises and hypothermia, Hope told U-T San Diego March 10.
Williams was a member of Silver Gate Yacht Club in San Diego, where Uncontrollable Urge was docked, said Carry Storm, the club’s commodore.
“This is a very difficult time for the Williams family, the skipper of Uncontrollable Urge and the other surviving crewmembers,” Storm said. “(The club) and the entire Southern California racing community is a close family, and the loss of one of our members impacts us all greatly.”
Storm declined to release further details.
The Islands Race website listed James Gilmore as the owner of Uncontrollable Urge. Gilmore tweeted March 8 that he was taking the new boat on its first race, and noted that the forecast called for 25-knot winds.
Hope said Uncontrollable Urge was known within the sailboat racing circuit and that its crew and skipper were experienced.
“Those guys had been around. They’re very good sailors,” he said. “This was not a case of someone getting in over their head.”
He said stormy conditions in the open seas caused equipment failures for two other boats, forcing their crews to drop from the race. The crew of Uncontrollable Urge radioed that the boat’s rudder failed.
“This was not an isolated incident,” Hope said. “Conditions were pretty fierce.”
The overnight, 139-nautical-mile race — co-hosted by Newport Harbor Yacht Club and San Diego Yacht Club — began in Newport Harbor March 8 and was to take participants around Catalina and San Clemente islands before finishing at San Diego’s Point Loma.
Coast Guard Crews Assist Disabled Boat, Treat Injured Crewman
SAN DIEGO (LOG NEWS SERVICE) — Coast Guard crews March 9 assisted the crew of a disabled sailboat adrift with injured crewmen aboard, approximately 10 miles off Mission Bay.
The crew of the 33-foot sailboat Mile High Klub, which was participating in the annual Islands Race from Newport Beach to San Diego, contacted the Coast Guard by radio around 3 a.m. March 9 requesting assistance after the boat lost the ability to steer due to a failed rudder, Coast Guard Petty Officer Connie Gawrelli said.
The crew also requested assistance for a 69-year-old crewman who had fallen into the cockpit and received minor injuries. A Coast Guard C-130 Hercules airplane from Sacramento was diverted to monitor the vessel and the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast was dispatched to assist the sailors.
Steadfast launched a small boat with medical personnel to assess the injured crewman. The crewman was treated and was reportedly in good condition. Gawrelli said.
A 45-foot Coast Guard response boat crew from San Diego was dispatched to tow Mile High Klub to port. The crew towed the disabled boat toward San Diego, but had to release the tow due to weather conditions.
The response boat crew remained on scene while other mariners delivered replacement parts. The Mile High Klub crew made the needed repairs and made their way to Southwestern Yacht Club on Shelter Island around 2 p.m., Gawrelli said.
The Islands Race website listed Phillip and Payson Infelise of Southwestern Yacht Club and Newport Harbor Yacht Club as the owners of Mile High Klub.