SAN FRANCISCO – Sailboat racers were grumbling Friday after the Coast Guard temporarily stopped races in ocean waters outside San Francisco Bay following a deadly yachting accident.
"We're all saddened by what happened," said Chris Larose, a San Francisco sailor who was to participate in an offshore race Saturday that is now prohibited. "But to cancel the race is overreaction. Tragic accidents occur in all kinds of competitions. We don't stop fishing boats from going out when one of them is lost."
Larose and others said they support a review of safety procedures after an April 14 race turned tragic, but they're disappointed that offshore races are prohibited until the reviews are complete.
During the race, five crew members of the 38-foot boat Low Speed Chase died when the vessel was hit by waves while rounding the Farallon Islands.
Race organizers are now holding the Offshore Yacht Racing Association Duxship Race almost entirely within San Francisco Bay. A second race, the Single-handed Sailing Society Farallones Race scheduled for May 12, will also have to adopt a similar alternative route or cancel the race entirely.
The restriction issued Thursday requires racing vessels to stay within the bay. Yacht racers are required to obtain a permit from the Coast Guard.
"This temporary safety stand-down from offshore racing will allow the Coast Guard and the offshore racing community to further our common safety goals," said Coast Guard Capt. Cynthia Stowe.
Stowe said the "stand-down" will allow the Coast Guard and the offshore racing community to study the accident and race procedures to determine whether changes are needed to improve safety. U.S. Sailing, the governing body of yacht racing, is leading the safety review, which is expected to be completed within the next month.
Laura Munoz, executive director of the Yacht Racing Association, which was the organizer of Saturday's canceled off-shore race, said she understands the views of sailors like Larose who wanted to race into the Pacific.
"But we do think it's a good idea to a take a breather" to examine safety procedures, Munoz said.
The Yacht Racing Association also organized the April 14 race that prompted the "stand-down" of offshore racing.