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Regatta deaths follow dangerous year in sailing

The Farallon Islands, 28 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, are known as the Devil’s teeth for the sharp, rocky spires that spring from the open ocean. Frequent gale force winds and steep, breaking waves make it a threatening shore for approaching boaters.

But since the annual Full Crew Farallones Race began, in 1907, using the islands as the turning point, there had never been a fatality.

On Saturday, the San Francisco Bay was uncharacteristically calm when the 38-foot Low Speed Chase was among the 52 sailboats to start this year’s race. The boat and its eight-person crew even remained in the race after nearly half the fleet had retired after three miles, when the typically powerful wind from the northwest began gusting to 25 knots.

But around 3 p.m., as conditions worsened, the Low Speed Chase was flung into the rocks while making the turn at the Farallones, and its crew went overboard. Three were rescued by Coast Guard and Air National Guard helicopters. One body was found, but four others were lost in the swirling whitewater.

Click here for the full New York Times report on an especially fatal year of sail racing.