Offshore yacht racing in the San Francisco Bay Area has been suspended

Two weeks ago five sailors were lost after their 38ft boat, Low Speed Chase, was hit by waves and struck rocks near the Farallon Islands while competing in the Full Crew Farallones Race. Now the US Coast Guard has Guard has temporarily suspended offshore yacht racing in the San Francisco Bay Area.

According to various news reports the San Francisco Police Department has ‘wrapped up an investigation of the accident, concluding no criminal negligence occurred.’

The action by the Coast Guard has prompted some to ask whether there has been a knee jerk reaction to this tragedy. Certainly in the UK it is difficult to imagine that the HM Coastguard would place a ban on offshore racing in similar circumstances.

Here’s what the San Francisco Times reported:

At least two races, one scheduled for Saturday, will be rerouted while US Sailing – the sport’s national governing body – conducts an independent review of Bay Area offshore racing procedures. Coast Guard officials said they also were “calling on all offshore race organizers and participants to conduct their own safety stand-downs during this period.”

“The San Francisco Bay Area sailing community is one of the most vibrant, experienced, and capable … in the world,” Coast Guard Capt. Cynthia Stowe said in a statement Thursday. “This temporary safety stand-down from offshore racing will allow the Coast Guard and the offshore racing community to further our common safety goals.”

The precautions come after the 38-foot yacht Low Speed Chase was slammed by two huge waves as it neared the islands 27 miles from San Francisco Bay. The body of one crew member was recovered, and four others remain missing and are presumed dead.

Laura Munoz, executive director of the Yacht Racing Association of San Francisco Bay, said that regardless of US Sailing’s findings, her organization was considering imposing a restricted zone to keep vessels about a quarter-mile from the rocky islands during future contests.

The Mercury News ran a story on the split in opinion following the news of the clamp down by the Coast Guards.

Sailors Split Over Ocean Racing Ban