1 dead, 5 rescued after sailboat accident near San Clemente Island: Victim was San Diego man

Wreck occurred during Islands Race

SAN DIEGO - A sailboat racing toward San Diego drifted into the waves at an offshore island and broke apart, leaving a San Diego man dead, authorities said Saturday.

Craig Thomas Williams, 36, was among crew on the 32-foot sailboat "Uncontrollable Urge" that radioed in a mayday from San Clemente Island shortly before 9:30 p.m. Friday. The vessel lost steering during a sailboat
race around the island, 60 miles west of San Diego, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Connie Gawrelli.

Uncontrollable Urge was one of about 40 racing boats racing 150 miles from Los Angeles to San Diego Bay via the west sides of Catalina and San Clemente islands, according to the race's website.

Race organizers described the conditions in the water as perfect for racing.

"Some of the bigger boats in the event, 70-foot boats, absolutely live for this stuff and it was optimal conditions for them... less so for the smaller boats," said Jeff Johnson, the regatta manager at the San Diego Yacht Club and a race coordinator.

Gawrelli said the crew declined immediate help from the Coast Guard or other boaters in the race.

The Uncontrollable Urge's crew instead asked for assistance from a commercial salvage company, but the salvage vessel was unable to launch due to weather conditions -- 8- foot swells and 12 mile per hour winds with a small craft advisory, Gawrelli said.

The sailors tried to anchor the vessel shortly after 11 p.m., but the anchor would not catch and the sailboat drifted closer to San Clemente Island, Gawrelli said. The Coast Guard then launched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and the Coast Guard Cutter Edisto, she said.

The boat washed into the surf and waves broke it apart, which forced the crew to abandon the sailboat, Gawrelli said. The boat wrecked about 60 miles west of San Diego, at an island occupied only by a small U.S. Navy base.

The boat's six sailors were hoisted from the water and taken to the Coast Guard station in San Diego, Gawrelli said. Williams was apparently dead on arrival in San Diego, and Medical Examiner's Office personnel were called in.

Williams' death was confirmed without medical intervention about 1:15 a.m., officials with the Medical Examiner's Office said. An autopsy has yet to be scheduled, authorities said.

Williams was a member of the Silver Gate Yacht Club located on Shelter Island.

"He (Williams) was a very integral member at our yacht club and it's a tragic loss," said Carey Storm, the commodore of the Silver Gate Yacht Club.

The other five sailors were hospitalized in undisclosed conditions, according to the Coast Guard.

"To have one of our top racers to go out and for a weekend of a competitive race and have it end in tragedy, the loss of life, the loss of… injuries, the trauma to the entire crew, the loss of the vessel…It's just really difficult," said Storm.

The Uncontrollable Urge was a Columbia Carbon 32 that was entered in the race by James Gilmore, who is also a member of the Silver Gate Yacht Club, according to the race's website.

The race was sponsored by the Newport Harbor and San Diego yacht clubs.

The Newport Harbor Yacht Club released the following statement on their Facebook page:

"As you may be aware, a tragedy has occurred during the Islands Race. The members of NHYC would like to express their sympathy to the friends and family of the boat, Uncontrollable Urge."

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