As many readers will by now know, the ORYA Full-Crew Farallones race was struck with tragedy as five sailors from Sydney 38 Low Speed Chase were swept overboard by a wave as they rounded the islands, and the boat with the remaining three sailors aboard was driven onto the rocks of Maintop Bay shortly after. We were quite close when this happened. I did not witness the boat going aground personally but some of our crew did, and we made one of the first calls to the Coast Guard, at approximately 1450 hrs PDT. The sea state was quite rough, with a big swell and mixed chop that produced the occasional drencher on deck, even before we came to the windward side of the island where the waves are made even worse by the effect of the waves rebounding from the shore. Wind was NW 25 kts.
As of this writing on Monday morning, the USCG has discontinued their rescue efforts, which had involved considerable effort and assets over more than 30 hours, and the missing crew must be presumed dead. Only one body of the five that went overboard was recovered. Two of the survivors who went aground (including the skipper) were thrown off the boat when it hit the rocks, and managed to climb on some rocks where they were picked up by a USCG helicopter. Video here. The remaining survivor was on the boat with a broken leg, and was also picked by by helicopter.
Chartlet of the islands.
We were way too cold and wet much of the time to take pictures and in a somber mood on the ride home. Frankly, what happened to Low Speed Chase could have happened to us also. When shorthanding in the ocean I am very disciplined about having myself and crew clipped in 100% of the time, but with crewed racing with very proficient crew I am much more lax, as conditions outside the Gate many days are no worse than in the Bay. But Saturday was not one of those days. It was pretty hairy from Pt. Bonita onward.
For the race we had a great crew, comprising Kim, Chewy, Andreas, and Andrew K., the latter two new to the boat and very experienced, skilled sailors. There was a big ebb and almost no wind at the start, something of a tradition it would seem. We set the #1 genny, and tried to work our way out into the middle of the stream as best we could. Approaching Bonita, the wind and seas increased steadily, and we made a good anticipatory call in changing down to the #3, with Andreas and Andrew working very well in managing this with the new hanked-on sails. From then on it was just a nasty beat into the square waves formed by the ebb meeting the 20 – 25 kt northwesterly. As usual, crockery down below was smashed, the galley cupboard door popped out, and drawers in the forepeak cabin knocked off their tracks. It was very wet, with plenty of waves washing over the deck and down inside the clothes of most of us.
We rounded with the islands to starboard, and mid-way we observed Low Speed Chase very close inshore, and then driven aground. The radio call was made to USCG as described above. We were already as close as any rational person would want to be to the rollers breaking on shore, and with a helo on the way and LSC grounded, we did not feel there was anything we could safely do to help, though we did scan the water for survivors.
On the ride home we stuck with the #3 sheeted to the rail and full main, which we had been flying since Bonita. I did not feel like putting up any more sail than that. Near the Lightship we were hit by a breaking sneaker wave on the port quarter, which flung me across the cockpit and to the starboard lifelines, and tumbled Temerity around in a 360° circle. As I was in the air I had plenty of time to remember that I was clipped in and would not be going overboard. We finished without further incident, and pulled in to StFYC to drop off crew, and everyone jumped on their cellphones to inform friends and family that we were OK. It seems that there had been some confusion with our initial radio call and USCG thought for awhile that we were also in distress. Strangely, they called our cell phones and emergency contacts, but did not attempt to hail us on VHF, which would have cleared things up immediately, as we continued to monitor Ch 16 for the rest of the race.
I and the Temerity crew extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those lost at sea.