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Bay Area sailing community reeling after deadly racing accident

April 16, 2012 |  7:41 am

The San Francisco Bay Area's tightly knit sailing community is reeling after a racing yacht accident near the Farallon Islands killed one sailor and left four missing.

Twelve-foot waves pummeled the sailboat during the Full Crew Farallones Race and hurled it onto rocks at the Farallon Islands, pitching most of the crew overboard. Three sailors were rescued but Marc Kasanin, 46, of Belvedere died, in the water and four more disappeared in the waves.

Coast Guard and National Guard rescuers scoured the choppy waters 27 miles west of the Golden Gate for the missing sailors until the search was called off Sunday night. There were no plans to resume.

Hundreds of mourners filed into the San Francisco Yacht Club in Belvedere, which managed the race and was the home club of the ill-fated vessel, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Members, many weeping, placed white roses and votive candles at the club's entrance. One friend of several members of the wrecked boat's crew, Brian Swift of Tiburon, said the families of the missing and the dead were in "utter shock" and thanking club members for their support.

"It's a tragedy of unbelievable proportions," club director Ed Lynch told the Chronicle. "It doesn't affect just this club, it affects sailors all over the world. It's going to hit us hard for a long, long time."

The 38-foot racing craft, named the Low Speed Chase, was one of 49 boats competing in this year's contest, which began Saturday at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco. The race has been held annually since 1907 and is sponsored by the Offshore Yacht Racing Assn. in Alameda.

The sailboat had an experienced seven-man, one-woman crew including Capt. James Bradford of Chicago, who owns the boat and survived the accident.

Several boats turned back Saturday when 25-knot winds and waves as high as 15 feet churned up the waters near the Farallones.

As racers were rounding the islands at 2:45 p.m., the Low Speed Chase was slammed by a powerful wave that washed five crewmates over the gunwale near the edge of the main Southeast Farallon Island, the Chronicle reported.

The remaining three on board turned the boat around to rescue their comrades when another wave heaved the boat onto the rocks on the northeast corner of the island, authorities said. Two sailors fell over the side on this second assault but managed to scramble to the shoreline, and the one left on board suffered a broken leg.

At least one other yacht was within eyesight, and its horrified crew watched the tragedy unfold but was unable to help in the tumultuous waves.

"It's a disaster -- they were inside, too close to the rocks," one of the onlooking sailors, Steve Hocking, told the Chronicle.  "Once you get in that close and a wave hits you like that, it rolls you over. There's not much you can do. The power of those waves is incredible."


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-- From a Times staff writer