Fatalities in the Newport-Ensenada race

At least three people believed to have been lost after yacht was run down by a ship

Sunday April 29th 2012, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: United States

Newport Ocean Sailing Association officials learned late on 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 US 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 0130 on 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 37ft 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.

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