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Rescued Sailor Offers Harrowing Story Of Deadly Farallones Yacht Crash

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Wreckage from the yacht Low Speed Chase was hoisted by helicopter from the Farallon Islands to Half Moon Bay on April 23, 2012. (CBS)

Wreckage from the yacht Low Speed Chase was hoisted by helicopter from the Farallon Islands to Half Moon Bay on April 23, 2012. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – One of the sailors who survived the crash of a racing yacht earlier this month off the Farallon Islands has given his first full account about what happened aboard the Low Speed Chase.

Bryan Chong and two other crew members survived and were rescued, but five out of the eight sailors vanished overboard when a large wave hit the racing yacht as it rounded the islands. Only one body was recovered.

Chong has written a nearly 4000-word account of the race, the wave that knocked him and his crew into the water and his subsequent rescue.  The harrowing account, titled ‘A Letter to the Community,’ was provided to four sailing publications:  Sailing Anarchy, Seahorse, Latitude38 and Scuttlebutt as well as two North Bay newspapers.

Chong said he chose the sailing publications “because they’re of a kindred spirit and were the favorites amongst the crew of Low Speed Chase and those who already know the answer to the question, ‘Why would you sail in the ocean on a windy day with big swells?’”

In Chong’s full account of the tragedy, he described the moments just after the rogue wave tossed him and other crew members overboard just off the Farallones:

The best way to describe the water in the break zone is a washing machine filled with boulders. You don’t really swim. The water took me where it wanted to take me, and when I was finally able to climb from the surf onto low rocks I heard Nick shouting from the distance for me to get to higher ground. Together we located Jay further down the shoreline. He was out of the surf but trapped on a rock surrounded by cliffs. From what we could see, nobody else had been able to climb to safety.

“Obviously it was something beyond the scale that the boat or crew could do anything about; at that point the boat was a toy on the ocean,” said John Arndt, editor of ‘Latitude 38.’

“It sounds like the whole day was really one more great yacht race that they were all enjoying, up until that tragic moment,” said Arndt.

KCBS’ Larry Chiaroni Reports:

Chong described a massive wave sweeping over the boat taking the five crew members overboard, shredding sails , snapping the mast, and washing all the flotation devices away. Arndt said that the tragedy has sparked plenty of talk about when to use safety tethers.

“I’m not sure tethers would have necessarily saved anybody, but that could be debated,” said Arndt.

San Francisco Police investigated the accident and found no evidence of criminal negligence.

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

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