Farallones Race Tragedy Won’t Change America’s Cup Safety Plans

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The sailing vessel Low Speed Chase after it crashed on the Farallon Islands. (San Francisco Chronicle/Polaris)

The sailing vessel Low Speed Chase after it crashed on the Farallon Islands. (San Francisco Chronicle/Polaris)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The deaths of five sailors in a race around the Farallon Islands over the weekend won’t change safety protocols for the America’s Cup when the regatta comes to San Francisco, organizers said.

The rogue wave Saturday that washed crewmembers off the Low Speed Chase during the 2012 Full Crew Farallones Race was a sobering moment for everyone planning the Cup series, said Bob Billingham, a member of the America’s Cup Race Management.

“It’s certainly a reminder of the fact that the Bay and the northern Pacific waters are unforgiving, both because of their conditions and their temperature, but the America’s Cup is completely different type of racing,” he said.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

Billingham admitted there could be crashes and sailors thrown overboard during the 2013 competition. The races have been marketed for their thrills and spills. And Oracle’s AC45 has already flipped over once while training, tossing its crew into the frigid San Francisco Bay.

But Billingham said Cup organizers can prevent a tragedy like the one that had U.S. Coast Guard and Air National Guard vessels searching the Pacific for three days to locate survivors.

“We have a full medical and safety rescue crew trailing behind all of our boats, in addition to the teams have their own support boats,” he said, adding that none of the high-speed catamarans will venture outside the Golden Gate onto the open ocean.

“They would not survive, and we wouldn’t send them there,” Billingham said.

“We don’t go anywhere near outside. The boats aren’t set up for those kinds of conditions.”

Instead, they will remain on the much flatter, calmer Bay waters that Bellingham conceded are not without hazards of their own.

“We have currents and we still have 50 degree water,” he said.

“You’ve got to get a guy out of the water who falls in after about 5 minutes.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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