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Sailboat disappears in San Francisco Bay

Why Daisy and her two-man crew sank and left her skipper lost at sea is still a mystery, officials say

Why Daisy and her two-man crew sank and left her skipper lost at sea is still a mystery, officials say

What started out as an enjoyable race on the water became a mystery left unsolved in the waters off San FranciscoBay.

Mill Valley, Calif., resident Matthew Kirby Gale, 68, and Larkspur, Calif., resident Anthony Harrow, 72, were participating in the 27th annual Double-Handed Lightship charity race sponsored by the Island Yacht Club March 15 when they disappeared into 63 feet of water.

First-timers to the regatta, the pleasure sailors were manning a Cheoy Lee Offshore 31 named Daisy with a wooden cabin and fiberglass hull. They had quickly fallen behind the 39 other boats during the 25-mile course from the Golden Gate Yacht Club’s race deck on the city’s Marina Green to the San Francisco sea buoy 12 miles outside of the bay. They were last seen around Buoy No. 3 on the race course about five nautical miles west of the Golden GateBridge at around 1 p.m. Their families, concerned when the two men were two hours overdue, called the Coast Guard about 6 p.m. that night, according to Lt. Lauren Kolumbic at Coast Guard District 11 in Alameda, Calif. Gale had reportedly spent $1,200 on a new marine VHF radio and GPS and yet no distress signal was received by the Coast Guard.

“We began contacting marinas and harbormasters in the area where the sailing vessel might have been,” says Kolumbic in an interview with Soundings. “Once we determined that the vessel could be in distress, we sent out a marine information broadcast.”

Overnight, an HH-65 Dolphin, an 87-foot coastal patrol boat, and a 47-foot motor lifeboat searched for the men, with a C-130 joining in the following morning. Kolumbic says the Coast Guard searched as far as Monterey, about two hours south of San Francisco. The body of Harrow was found at 11 a.m. March 16 by the San Mateo County Sherriff’s Department in the vicinity of Moss Beach, about 22 miles from the racetrack. Gale still had not been found as of mid-April.

The Coast Guard initially estimated that the sailors would have survived less than five hours in the 51-degree water.

Kolumbic says the Coast Guard, along with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Deptartment, dove to look for pieces of the wreckage of Daisy on March 20. They found the mast, rigging, a door to a small icebox, and pieces of the wooden deck and cabin three nautical miles west of the Golden GateBridge. Kolumbic says the Coast Guard can’t speculate on the cause of the sinking, but it was noted that the cabin molding appeared to have separated from the hull, indicating a possible collision with an object.

Kolumbic says the National Weather Service had issued a small craft advisory warning, seas at 16- to 18-foot breaks with winds gusting up to 25 knots.

Lucie Mewes, commodore of the Island Yacht Club, says the club can’t comment on whether this incident will change the future of the charity regatta until the Coast Guard has concluded its investigation. However, she did state to the San Francisco Chronicle that all the participants were “heartsick” over what has happened.

Gale was a retired neurologist and was known to everyone as “Kirby,” and Harrow worked for the insurance industry. They met sailing and had been friends for seven years, according to their obituary in the Chronicle.

On March 22, the Island Yacht Club provided daisies to the skippers racing in the club’s crewed Lightship Race to cast at sea at various locations to honor the lost Daisy and her crew.