Another Southern California Racing Tragedy: Uncontrollable Urge

12 Mar

We all know offshore sailboat racing can be dangerous. But the southern Californian sailing community certainly is enduring some tragic times.

Last summer, it was four dead aboard Aegean during the Newport-Ensenada Race. And this past weekend a young father was killed during the Newport-San Diego Island Race, when the boat he was sailing on–James Gilmore's Uncontrollable Urge–apparently lost its rudder coming off a big wave, and eventually ended up wrecked in big surf.

Here's Latitude 38 with the details

"The California sailing community has once again been thrown into mourning. San Diego's Craig Williams, 36, died this weekend during the Islands Race. Williams was crew aboard James Gilmore's San Diego-based Columbia Carbon 32 Uncontrollable Urge for the 130-mile race from Newport Harbor YC to San Diego YC, which leaves Catalina and San Clemente Islands to port. According to crew reports, the brand-new all-carbon boat had come off a particularly large wave when the rudder exploded, leaving the boat disabled.

Gilmore and crew — Mike Skillicorn, Doug Pajak, Craig Williams, Ryan Georgianna and Vince Valdes, the

boat's builder — called a pan pan to inform the Coast Guard of their situation, but did not request rescue by the Coasties or other racers. Those who know the crew believe the very experienced sailors felt the situation was under control, as a commercial tow service had been called, and they didn't want to interfere with anyone else's race. Unfortunately, rough conditions of 8- to 10-ft swells and 30 knots of wind prevented the launching of the tow vessel.

As Uncontrollable Urge drifted down onto the lee shore of San Clemente Island, the crew attempted to set an anchor, but it dragged. They contacted the Coast Guard for assistance, but it was too late. The boat was swept into the pounding surf and broke apart. The liferaft they deployed was destroyed in the surf, and all six sailors were thrown into the sea.

A USCG helo plucked the sailors from the island's rocky shore after midnight and transported them to a local hospital, where Williams was pronounced dead. An active racer in Southern California aboard his Olson 40 Uproarious, he leaves behind a two-year-old daughter and a pregnant wife."

It doesn't get any sadder than that, and a fund has been set up for Williams' family

Naturally, there will be lots of questions and discussion around when to call a Pan Pan and when to call a Mayday, if and when to abandon ship, and communications with the private tow company. Hopefully, lessons will be learned and another young family won't have t endure similar agony.

More details as they come…

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