A sailboat race organized by a Newport Beach-based yacht club turned tragic Friday night when one of the boats drifted into the waves at an offshore island and broke apart, leaving a San Diego man dead, authorities said Saturday.
Craig Thomas Williams, 36, was among crew on the 32-foot sailboat Uncontrollable Urge that radioed in a mayday from San Clemente Island shortly before 9:30 p.m. Friday. The vessel lost steering during a sailboat race around the island, 60 miles west of San Diego, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Connie Gawrelli.
Uncontrollable Urge was one of about 40 racing boats racing 150 miles from Los Angeles to San Diego Bay via the west sides of Catalina and San Clemente islands, according to the race’s website. The race was sponsored by the Newport Harbor and San Diego yacht clubs.
Gawrelli said the crew declined immediate help from the Coast Guard and other boaters in the race.
The Uncontrollable Urge’s crew instead asked for assistance from a commercial salvage company, but the salvage vessel was unable to launch due to weather conditions—8-foot swells and 12-mile-per-hour winds with a small-craft advisory, Gawrelli said.
The sailors tried to anchor the vessel shortly after 11 p.m., but the anchor would not catch and the sailboat drifted closer to San Clemente Island, Gawrelli said. The Coast Guard then launched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and the Coast Guard Cutter Edisto, she said.
The boat washed into the surf and waves broke it apart, which forced the crew to abandon the sailboat, Gawrelli said. The boat wrecked about 60 miles west of San Diego, at an island occupied only by a small U.S. Navy base.
The boat’s six sailors were hoisted from the water and taken to the Coast Guard station in San Diego, Gawrelli said. Williams was apparently dead on arrival in San Diego, and Medical Examiner’s Office personnel were called in.
Williams’ death was confirmed without medical intervention about 1:15 a.m., officials with the Medical Examiner's Office said. An autopsy has yet to be scheduled, authorities said.
The other five sailors were hospitalized in undisclosed conditions, according to the Coast Guard.
The Uncontrollable Urge was a Columbia Carbon 32 that was entered in the race by James Gilmore of the Silver Gate Yacht Club on San Diego's Shelter
Island, according to the race’s website.
-City News Service