Bay Area yacht racing to resume a month after fatal Farallon Islands accident

After the deaths of five people in a crash near the Farallon Islands last month, yacht racing off the Northern California coast is set to resume this weekend, with the local sailing community vowing to improve safety and training standards to prevent future tragedies.

While competing in an offshore regatta, the 38-foot yacht Low Speed Chase smashed into rocks near South Farallon Island on April 14, killing all but three crew members and prompting the Coast Guard to issue a “safety stand-down” to halt races from occurring outside the Golden Gate. Offshore permits have since been denied for two races, although those events were allowed to be carried out within the Bay.

After the Low Speed Chase accident, the U.S. Sailing Association began working on a report to improve safety and training standards for sailboat racing events in the area. The study contained five recommendations, including calls for enhanced training in seamanship and piloting, once-a-season training seminars, improved race management, more consistent protocol for racing events and greater compliance with minimum equipment requirements.

With the preliminary safety report now released, the Coast Guard has issued an offshore permit for the Spinnaker Cup, a three-day race that spans from the San Francisco Yacht Club in Belvedere to the Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club.

Thirty-nine teams have signed up for the event, which begins today.

“The Coast Guard appreciates the tremendous support of the offshore race organizers and sponsoring yacht clubs during this safety stand-down,” Capt. Cynthia Stowe of the Coast Guard said in a statement Thursday. “The coordination and support from this local community will help further our common goal of ensuring all
mariners return home safely.”

Laura Munoz, executive director of the Offshore Yacht Racing Association, a local organizing group, said the safety recommendations will help the overall safety of the races.

“Any increases in education and developing seamanship will certainly help prevent all kinds of issues,”  Munoz said. “These recommendations will be implemented on a continual basis, but I think they’re definitely going to have a direct impact.”

The Low Speed Chase team was affiliated with the San Francisco Yacht Club. Representatives from the club could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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