Sailor Klein Dies During San Francisco Bay Race


The sailing community has been shaken by the death of San Diego’s Larry Klein, a multiple world champion and 1989 U.S. Yachtsman of the Year, during a race on San Francisco Bay. He was 42.

Klein was skipper of the 38-foot sloop Twin Flyer, which was leading the fifth race of the 31st Big Boat Series on Saturday when the outboard port hiking rack collapsed and dumped him and six other crewmen into the water between the city front and Alcatraz Island.

The cause of death was not immediately disclosed, although Klein was presumed to have drowned during the crew’s estimated eight minutes in the water. Klein, said to be a strong swimmer, apparently was not injured by any of the boat’s equipment, and other members of the crew said the water was not particularly cold.


However, one report said there was a chilling breeze and the crewmen were wearing heavy foul-weather clothing, which could have made swimming or even floating difficult in the choppy water. Klein was pronounced dead at the California Pacific Medical Center at 5:56 p.m. Saturday.

None of the crew wore life jackets--not unusual for closed-course sailing, during which the prospect of rescue is seldom far away.

One crewman remained on board and was able to drop the sails. Five, including Klein, were picked up by a trailing competitor, X-Dream. One other swam back to the Twin Flyer and the last to another racing boat.

Twin Flyer was sailing upwind in 22 knots of wind at the time of the accident. Waves were four to five feet.

Sailing upwind, the crew was sitting on the port windward hiking rack outside the hull, using body weight to minimize the boat’s heel in the extreme conditions. The rack was constructed of aluminum tubing. It was not immediately known why it collapsed.

The Twin Flyer is owned and designed by Alberto Calderon of San Diego. Calderon is an engineer and scientist known for his innovative boat designs, including ideas used on the America’s Cup boat USA from San Francisco sailed by the late Tom Blackaller in 1986 and Dennis Conner’s Stars & Stripes in 1992.


Last month, Klein was added to the U.S. Sailing Team as the top-ranked Soling class competitor building to the 1996 Olympics. His crew were Wally Corwin of Northboro, Mass., and Steve Burns of San Antonio.

Klein won world championships in the Soling, J-24 and Etchells classes. He competed in the Congressional Cup at Long Beach in 1990. Klein, a member of the San Diego Yacht Club, founded the J-World sailing school in San Diego after moving from Columbus, Ohio, in 1987.

Klein is survived by his wife, Leslie, and their 20-month-old son, Alexander. The San Diego Yacht Club will hold a memorial for Klein on Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m.