Newport to Ensenada Race Fatalities Confirmed

In a statement issued this morning, Lexus Newport (Beach) to Ensenada Race race officials confirm that three bodies have been recovered, while one is still missing.

Sailing World

Hunter 376 Aegean

Here's the un-edited report:

ENSENADA, Baja California, Mexico---Newport Ocean Sailing Association (NOSA) officials learned late Saturday that three sailors in their Newport to Ensenada offshore race had died in an apparent collision with a large vessel several miles off the coast near the border.

Theo Mavromatis is the owner and skipper of the sailboat Aegean, a Hunter 376 representing the Little Ships Fleet club, but it was not known if he was one of the victims. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter led Vessel Assist to two bodies and later retrieved another. None of the bodies had been identified. A crew list was not immediately available, nor was it known how many other crew may have been on the boat, which is usually sailed by five or more persons.

The first indication of the incident was at 1:30 a.m. Saturday when the boat's image vanished from the online race tracking system in place for the race. A Coast Guard search was launched that led to discovery of the boat's wreckage, including the rear transom with the boat's name on it.

An investigation was continuing, but it appeared the damage was not inflicted by an explosion but by a collision with a ship much larger than the 37-foot vessel.

The race started off Newport Beach in mid-day Friday and many boats finished in Ensenada Saturday, with the last ones due in Sunday. Weather conditions were lighter than normal at the time and place of the incident, with boats reporting winds of only 1 or 2 knots.

These would be the first fatalities in the 65-year history of the race, in which as many as 675 boats have competed in 1983 and 213 were entered this year."

According to the regatta's entry data, the crew included: Theo Mavromatis (skipper), Joseph Stewart, Michael Pattonm and Kevin Rudolph.

And here's the official word from the USCG:

"SAN DIEGO – U.S. Coast Guard, Mexican Navy and civilian search and rescue crews are searching for a missing crewmember from a 37-foot sailboat that was reported missing Saturday morning near the Coronado Islands, Mexico.

Three other crewmembers from the vessel were found deceased Saturday afternoon. One was recovered by a Coast Guard helicopter crew and two others by a civilian crew. The sailing vessel was participating in a Newport, Calif., to Ensenada, Mexico regatta.

Vessels in the area of the Coronado Islands reported seeing debris at approximately 10 a.m. The Coast Guard launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, and a 33-foot response boat to search the area.

Coast Guard search planners later spoke with race officials who reported that one of the boats participating in the race, the Aegean, was unaccounted for.

By mid afternoon, searchers located the three deceased crewmembers and debris from the sailboat. The deceased were brought to Coast Guard Sector San Diego and turned over to the San Diego County Coroner.

The search for the remaining sailboat crewmember continues with Coast Guard crews aboard a Jayhawk helicopter, a 45-foot Response Boat, and a C-130 Hercules aircraft as well as the Coast Guard Cutter Sea Otter, a Mexican Navy vessel and civilian vessels.

The cause of the incident will be investigated."

UPDATE: APRIL 29

Search For One Missing Sailor Suspended

COAST GUARD STATEMENT

SAN DIEGO – The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for the missing crewmember of the sailing vessel Aegean at 4:15 p.m., April 29, 2012.

The Coast Guard, Mexican Navy and civilian volunteers searched more than 600 square-miles since yesterday afternoon.

The initial search began shortly after a boater reported debris from a boat near the Coronado Islands. Three of the four crewmembers were found dead in search area Saturday. The sailboat crew was taking part in a Newport Beach, Calif., to Ensenada, Mexico regatta.

“It’s never easy to make the decision to suspend a search and rescue case,” said Capt. Sean Mahoney, Commander Sector San Diego. “The Coast Guard extends its sympathies to the families and friends of the Aegean crew. They will be in our thoughts and prayers.”

Coast Guard investigators have not determined a cause for the incident. An investigation into the tragedy continues.