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Old 04-16-2012, 04:26 AM   #1
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A rare tragedy at sea hits SF's sailing community

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) A century-old tradition, the Full Crew Farallones Race has never been for the faint of heart: Winds averaging 10 to 20 knots and churning 14-foot Pacific Ocean swells are among the rough conditions typically braved by yachts and their crews during the daylong regatta, a spring favorite of skilled sailors.

But on Saturday, powerful waves and a disastrous series of events brought rare tragedy to the august race and the San Francisco Bay area's large sailing community.

One crew member died and four others remained missing at sea Sunday after two strong waves swept them from their boat near the rocky Farallon Islands, the halfway point of the 54-mile race that began at daybreak in San Francisco and had 49 entrants.

It was the first known fatality in the 143-year history of the San Francisco Yacht Club, which managed the race for the Offshore Yacht Racing Association and where the yacht involved in the accident, the 38-foot Low Speed Chase, was based, club director Ed Lynch said.

"The race community is a very tight-knit group of people, and obviously this tragedy has reached far and wide around the world," Lynch said. "It's an event that will give everybody pause."

Low Speed Chase's owner and captain, 41-year-old James Bradford of Chicago, was among the three survivors whom the U.S. Coast Guard, assisted by National Guard helicopters, pulled from one of the islands about 300 feet from their damaged vessel, Lynch said.

Bradford and another crew member were briefly treated at a hospital, while the third survivor was admitted overnight with a broken leg and contusions, he said.

The seven men and one woman on board ranged in age from their 20s to their 40s, according to Lynch. He said the San Mateo County Coroner's Office has identified the crew member whose dead body was pulled from the water as Marc Kasanin, 46, of Belvedere, Calif.

The crew members who are still missing are: Alan Cahill, of Tiburon, Calif.; Jordan Fromm, of San Rafael, Calif.; Elmer Morrissey, who is from Ireland; and Alexis Busch, of Larkspur, Calif., who was the only woman aboard the Low Speed Chase, Lynch said.

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