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1 dead, 5 rescued in Calif. sailboat race accident

By Daisy Nguyen

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 12:15 p.m. HST, Mar 10, 2013



LOS ANGELES >> Five sailors who survived when their boat smashed into rocks during a race in storm-churned seas off Southern California, killing a fellow crewmember, have been released from San Diego hospitals.

The survivors were treated for cuts, bruises and hypothermia, Chuck Hope, commodore of the San Diego Yacht Club, told UT San Diego. The yacht club was a co-host of the 139-nautical-mile Islands Race.

The five crewmembers of the Uncontrollable Urge were rescued after the 32-foot sailboat lost its steering and the craft began drifting toward San Clemente Island, where it broke apart, Coast Guard Petty Officer Connie Gawrelli said Saturday.

Craig Thomas Williams, a 36-year-old architect from Serra Mesa, was killed. Race officials identified the other crew members as James Gilmore, the skipper and owner of the boat; Mike Skillicorn; Doug Pajak; Ryan Georgianna; and Vince Valdes.

On Friday night, the crew radioed the mayday call and also activated a feature on the boat that provides authorities with GPS coordinates and other crucial information, she said. But the crew then declined assistance and instead requested a tow boat. Stormy conditions, however, kept the tow boat from getting to them.

"They were not in immediate danger and thought they would be able to manage completing the race and get assistance on their own," Hope said. "Then things got worse."

He said the crew couldn't deploy a life raft or anchor the boat. They abandoned ship when the boat entered the surf line and broke apart.

When the Coast Guard reached the crew, they found Williams unresponsive in the water, the San Diego County Medical Examiner's office said. He and the other five crew members were hoisted into a helicopter and flown to a hospital.

Williams was a member of the Silver Gate Yacht Club in San Diego, where the Uncontrollable Urge is docked, said Carey Storm, the club's commodore.

"This is a very difficult time for the Williams family, the skipper of Uncontrollable Urge and the other surviving crew members," Carey 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."

Carey said Sunday that a memorial fund has been established to help support Williams' young daughter and wife, who is pregnant.

Gilmore, the owner of the Uncontrollable Urge, tweeted 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. The Uncontrollable Urge crew radioed that the boat's rudder failed.

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

The overnight race began in Newport Harbor in Orange County on 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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