Low Speed Chase: Tragedy on the Farallon Islands

The tragedy of Low Speed Chase has jarred sailors around the world and, much like the Olivia Constants accident and the capsize of Rambler 100have been haunting reminders of the inherent risks of sailing. The yacht crashed onto one of the Farallon Islands, approximately 27 miles outside of the Golden Gate Bridge in the Pacific Ocean.

The incident occurred during the Full Crew Farallon Islands Race, which departs and returns from/to San Francisco, after rounding the South Farallon. Total distance sailed is 54 miles.

Sports Illustrated has a well-written article about the crew members onboard, describing them as “experienced.” For those who are unfamiliar with the events of the crash, the following is a brief synopsis:

  1. While rounding the island, the most tactically challenging part of the race, Low Speed Chase suffered a beating from high seas and changing winds. According to iWindsurf, winds on Saturday ranged from 15-20kts.
  2. While contemplating the next move, the boat was broadsided by a large wave, knocking James Bradford, 41, and Mark Kasanin, 46, overboard. Another wave swept the boat, knocking all remaining crew overboard with the exception of Nick Vos, 26, who was tangled in some lines.
  3. Another wave or series of waves then swept the boat up onto the South Farallon Island. It is not known how far the boat was from the island at the time of rounding.
  4. The USCG rescues Bradford and Bryan Chong, as well as Vos.
  5. The USCG calls off the search for the remaining five, including skipper Alan Cahill, Elmer Morrissey, Alexis Busch, Jordan Fromm, and Kasanin.
While tragic, the accident is nothing more than that: an accident. Bradford, the owner, had the foresight to know that he didn’t have the experience to helm the boat in the race, considering weather conditions and other factors. He hired Cahill, a decorated sailor and captain-for-hire to skipper the boat. The tragedy should serve as a reminder that sailing is a dangerous sport, like many others. Managed effectively, the risks can be mitigated so that sailing remains an enjoyable and safe activity for all involved.
Photos via SFGate. With deepest condolences to the families of the missing sailors. Sports Illustrated article via Sailing Scuttlebutt.
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