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US Sailing will investigate California accident

Less than two weeks after a sailor died after the six-person crew of a 32-foot sailboat abandoned their crippled vessel before it broke apart during a California race, US Sailing said it will conduct an independent review of the accident.

US Sailing said the 2013 Islands Race Organizing Authorities of the San Diego Yacht Club and Newport Harbor Yacht Club jointly requested that the sport’s national governing body conduct an independent review of the sailing accident, which occurred during the race on March 8 on the rocky coast of California’s San Clemente Island.

A panel of sailing experts will study the event and circumstances that the crew of Uncontrollable Urge, a Columbia Carbon 32, encountered during the two-day slands Race, a 139-nautical-mile sprint from Long Beach to San Diego.

Published reports say that after the rudder failed, the crew was unable to set an anchor in the deep water off the island and then deployed a life raft that may have escaped their control.

The boat reportedly drifted closer to shore and began breaking up in what was reported to be 8-foot surf, forcing the crew to abandon ship. Five were rescued from the surf. Craig Williams, 36, a husband and father, was unresponsive when pulled from the water.

The panel will be responsible for researching the factors involved by reviewing safety policies and procedures, and the use of safety equipment. The panel will determine what lessons can be learned from the accident and present recommendations for future consideration.

“All of us at US Sailing — our staff, board of directors and volunteers — are deeply saddened by this event and are mourning the loss of life,” US Sailing executive director Jack Gierhart said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and friends as they navigate through these very difficult times. While we cannot affect the past, we will look to learn from this tragedy to help sailors in the future and ensure sailing remains as safe as possible.”

Click here for the full announcement from US Sailing and click here for a report last week on the accident by Soundings magazine.