One sailor dead in race co-sponsored by Newport Harbor Yacht Club

A San Diego man died over the weekend during a sailing race co-sponsored by the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, officials said.

Craig Thomas Williams, 36, was one of six crew members aboard the Uncontrollable Urge, a 32-foot vessel participating in the fourth annual Islands Race that began Friday in Long Beach and ended Saturday in San Diego, race officials said.

Five others were also injured in an accident where the surfline broke apart the drifting sailboat late Friday night near San Clemente Island, Coast Guard officials said. A Coast Guard helicopter recovered all six crew members before transporting them to an area hospital.

“The members of NHYC would like to express their sympathy to the friends and family of the boat, Uncontrollable Urge,” the Newport Harbor Yacht Club wrote in a statement on its Facebook page.

Coast Guard officials said the Uncontrollable Urge, which was in small-craft advisory weather containing 8-foot swells and 20- to 25-knot winds, initially “stated they were not in need of assistance and declined assistance from both the Coast Guard and other boaters involved in the race.”

The Coast Guard originally provided incorrect information regarding its small-craft advisory warning during the weekend’s Islands Race. The on-scene advisory weather had 20- to 25-knot winds, not 10-knot winds.

The crew issued a mayday call around 9:26 p.m. Friday after the rudder failed and the vessel began drifting toward San Clemente Island, Coast Guard officials said.

The Islands Race route is 139 nautical miles and rounds both San Clemente and Catalina islands. The San Diego Yacht Club co-sponsors the race with the NHYC.

The Uncontrollable Urge, owned and skippered by James Gilmore, was from the Silver Gate Yacht Club in San Diego, according to the San Diego Yacht Club’s website.

The racing-related death involving local participants is the second in recent memory. In April 2012, during the annual Newport-to-Ensenada race, four racers from one vessel died. The official investigation report ruled that the Aegean — a 37-foot, Redondo Beach-based vessel — likely ran aground before sinking off the coast of North Coronado Island.

The four fatalities were the first in the race’s 65-year history.


Racer’s perspective

Len Bose, who writes the Daily Pilot’s “Harbor Report” column, participated in the Islands Race aboard the Adrenalin, a 50-foot vessel based in Newport Harbor. It was manned by about seven crew members, he said.

Bose said the mood in San Diego at the finish line was somber after people heard the news of Williams’ death and the others aboard the Uncontrollable Urge who were injured.

“That was the talk of the yacht club this morning down in San Diego,” he said.

“It was kind of a reality check there ... it makes you sit in your seat,” Bose added, calling it a dangerous sport.

After hearing of the death in news reports, many participants’ wives were calling in, hoping to hear their husbands were OK, he said.

While Bose never feared for his personal safety during the race, he said the crew knew what they were getting into before setting sail.

“It wasn’t a surprise what we’d be facing,” he said. “It seems that you go out there and you do it so often that sometimes you forget. That might’ve been the case this time for a few people.”

Most of the boats, including his, had equipment failures of some type or other, Bose said.

Of the weather conditions, he said it was a “very dark night. No moon. Just a ton of stars out there, the glow of your running lights on the water. When it’s that black, it has a tendency to pucker you up a little more.”

He said with news of yachting fatalities, “our biggest concern is [additional] government restriction on what we do. It’s a type of sport that you’re out there playing it and you best be ready.”

Twitter: @bradleyzint