published Saturday, March 9th, 2013

1 dead, 5 rescued from California racing sailboat accident

LOS ANGELES — A sailor died and five others were rescued after abandoning a racing boat that lost its steering capability and drifted to an island off Southern California, where it was broken apart by crashing waves, the Coast Guard said Saturday.

The crew of Uncontrollable Urge issued a mayday call Friday night after the 32-foot sailboat’s rudder failed and the craft began drifting toward the rocky shore of San Clemente Island, Petty Officer Connie Gawrelli said. The crew initially declined assistance from the Coast Guard and other boaters and requested a tow boat, Gawrelli said.

However, rough seas kept that boat from getting to them.

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.

“They were not in immediate danger and thought they would be able to manage completing the race and get assistance on their own,” said Chuck Hope, commodore of the San Diego Yacht Club. “Then things got worse.”

He said the boat was buffeted by 8-foot swells and wind gusts of 20 to 30 knots.

After making it to shore, the six were hoisted into a Coast Guard helicopter and taken to a hospital where one man was pronounced dead, Gawrelli said. His name was not immediately released.

The sailor was a member of the Silver Gate Yacht Club in San Diego, where the Uncontrollable Urge is docked, its commodore said.

“This is a tragedy for the families and our club is mourning for the loss of life,” Carey Storm said in a statement.

Storm declined to release further details.

The Islands Race website listed James Gilmore as the owner of the Uncontrollable Urge. Gilmore tweeted on Friday that he was taking the new boat on its first race, and noted that the forecast called for 25-knot winds.

“Gonna see what this boat can do!” he tweeted.

Hope said the Uncontrollable Urge was known within the sailboat racing circuit and that its crew and skipper were experienced.

“Those guys 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.

“This was not an isolated incident,” Hope said. “Conditions were pretty fierce.”

The overnight, 139-nautical-mile race began in Newport Harbor in Orange County Friday and was to take participants around Catalina and San Clemente islands before finishing off in San Diego’s Point Loma.

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