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Fatal Aegean Yacht Crash Result of 'Inadequate Lookout,' Report Says

A report from U.S. Sailing says the fatal Aegean yacht crash during the annual Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race was likely due to inadequate lookout by the vessel's four sailors.

The Aegean hit North Coronado Island, killing four people, during the annual Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race in April due to “an inadequate lookout,” according to a final report from U.S. Sailing, the sport’s governing body.

U.S. Sailing released the report Tuesday and will present its findings Thursday at the organization’s annual meeting. According to the U.S. Sailing report, the yacht crashed into the North Coronado Island in Mexico in the early morning of April 28 while running on autopilot. The crash resulted in the deaths of sailors William Johnson Jr., 57, of Torrance; Kevin Rudolph, 53, of Manhattan Beach; Joseph Stewart, 64, of Bradenton, Fla.; and skipper Theo Mavromatis, 49, of Redondo Beach.

“The panel concludes that the skipper set a waypoint that took Aegean on a path that intersected North Coronado Island, that Aegean was motoring under autopilot as she approached the island, and there is no evidence of any intervention to prevent Aegean’s running into the island,” the report stated. (See attached .pdf for the complete report.)

According to the report, at 9:35 p.m. on April 27, data transmitted from Mavromatis’ handheld SPOT GPS tracker shows Aegean picked up speed and shows the boat was traveling in a nearly straight line, which likely indicates the use of autopilot. Data from the online log stops at 1:36 a.m. on April 28, with sailboat hitting the island at about 1:34 a.m.

Along with the findings, the U.S. Sailing report also offered recommendations for future Newport to Ensenada Yacht races such as having skippers enforce a watch standard that requires at least two people to be on watch whenever possible.

"Having a minimum of two pair of eyes and four hands is preferable to having fewer," the report stated.

The San Diego Medical Examiner's Office ruled the deaths of Mavromatis, Rudolph and Johnson to be the result of blunt-force trauma, while Stewart drowned after blunt-force head injuries. No alcohol or drugs were found in their bodies, according to the medical examiner's report.

This was not the crew’s first time competing in the race; the year prior they had won the race with the help of a fifth crewman. The Aegean fatalities were the first in the history of the annual Newport Beach to Ensenada race.

The U.S. Coast Guard still has not released the results of its investigation into the crash. A small group of sailing enthusiasts conducting their own investigation discovered debris in the rocks near the tip of the island. The group's results were shared with the Coast Guard.

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