Racing restrictions lifted following fatal yacht crash

May 24, 2012 7:40:58 PM PDT
Last month, five people died when a sailboat wound up on the rocks of the Farallon Islands during a race. Following that, the Coast Guard slapped a moratorium on yacht racing. But just in time for the long holiday weekend, the racing restrictions have now been lifted, but there are new recommendations in place.

The Coast Guard says the recommendations are the result of an investigation by US Sailing. Hall of fame America's Cup racer and ESPN racing commentator Gary Jobson is president of the organization. He talked with ABC7 News about the investigation.

Jobson says, after the April 14 accident that saw the yacht Low Speed Chase washed up on the Farallones with five crew dead, US Sailing investigators began to interview the surviving crew the race committee and other racers about what went wrong.

"And narrowed it down to, how do we make this common sense, easy to understand, but effective, and that's how we came up with these recommendations," Jobson said.

The first recommendation is for enhanced training of sailors in seamanship and piloting. That includes US Sailing seminars on how waves develop in shallow waters and how to keep a safe distance.

The second is for once-a-season training seminars on safety gear and mandatory skippers meetings for offshore races.

Third is assurance of compliance with existing minimum equipment requirements, including post-race inspections.

And the fourth recommendation is for improved race management, including accountability for boats on the course, who is on board and making sure the race committee has their names and contact information.

Sensitivity over the deaths of five racers who sailed out of the San Francisco Yacht Club in Marin County have caused the club management to shut down reporters' questions about the recommendations.

Seamus Crady is not a member, but he is a yacht racer.

"And some of the guys who lost their lives were friends of mine and to this day, when I cross Golden Gate Bridge, I look over at the Farallon Islands and I see some of these guys looking at me," he said. "I love every one of these ideas, anything that can be done to save a life."

"It's hard to define what's the difference between safe and not safe, but clearly this was a boat that got in too close and giving something a little bit more room is just prudent and I think this is a wakeup call that we've got to pay more attention," Jobson said.

The Coast Guard says they did pull the safety permits on a couple of offshore races, but this weekend's Spinnaker Cup race from San Francisco Bay to Monterey is good to go.


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