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In The Eye Of The Storm

Contributed by Hans and Mudle Gotschling

SAILBOAT RACE

A few years ago, the Gotschlings were sailing in an Albacore regatta on the Toronto Waterfront.

At noon, the weather turned stormy and quite a number of people decided not to go out in the afternoon because of threatening winds. But the keeners went out anyway.

A threatening squall came up suddenly and all the sailboats in the race capsized. With the help of the rescue boats everyone reached shore - or so they thought.

An hour or so later, while the prizes were being given out, the group realized there was an empty sailboat trailer; the couple who owned the sailboat had not returned.

An intense search followed. The waves were high and covered with whitecaps. Even with the use of helicopters to do air surveillance, a white overturned sailboat proved impossible to find in such conditions.

A few days later the sailboat washed up on the American shore of lake Ontario. The couple had latched themselves onto the overturned boat, but unfortunately died of hypothermia. They were found, still gripping the boat.

As a result the Toronto Waterfront Sailing clubs adopted a new sing-out, sign-in system to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

All sailors are required now to sign-in and sign-out their boats and race officials all check and do a head count after the race. Anyone failing to sign-in or out is disqualified from the race.

Six Sailors Dead

Larry Ellison, owner and skipper of the 80-foot Sayonara, found himself in serious trouble when a forecasted storm turned into a hurricane last month. Six sailors from other vessels lost their lives in the disaster.

Forty-four of the 115 boats that began the race completed it.

At a benefit luncheon, Ellison gave a riveting account of his recent battle with nature. Ellison's talk elicited gasps and sympathetic groans from his audience of yachting enthusiasts as the database magnate chronicled with precise technical detail the force of the gales, the height and angle of the waves, and the lengthening inventory of sails and other vital yacht hardware destroyed in what Ellison described as a full-fledged hurricane.

The standing-room only address benefited the American Red Cross, which is raising money for the families of the six drowned sailors.

Shortly after emerging from the eye of the storm, the Sayonara was hoisted on waves so steep that the vessel repeatedly found itself in several-seconds-long free falls above the churning sea. Ellison recounted seeing crew members suspended in mid-air before being dashed back to the decks.

One of Ellison's two-dozen crew members went overboard without his harness, but managed to climb back on. Ellison's crew emerged from the storm whole but battered. Injuries included broken feet, ribs, and knees.

Ellison was seasick for the second time in his life, he said, and vomited more times than he could count. For three days he stopped eating, and for the last of these he stopped drinking water as well.

"I'm an acrobatic pilot, so I'm used to funny things happening in my inner ear," Ellison said. "But boy was I sick."

In response to a question from the audience, Ellison acknowledged that he thought he might die in the storm, though the exigencies of the moment prevented him from dwelling on the prospect.

"What a stupid way to die," Ellison said he thought at the time. "At least the professionals are being paid for this. I was paying to be there, so I felt especially stupid."

Ellison and the other racers expected stormy weather, which he said was routine for the Tasman Sea at that time of year. But nobody had forecast a hurricane, he said.

Ellison praised the 71 boats that withdrew from the race rather than complete it. "This is not what sailboat racing is supposed to be about," Ellison said.

Ellison's next scheduled yacht race is the U.K.'s Fastnet, which he will sail with fellow yacht racer Ted Turner.

Had race organizers paid attention to the weather conditions, lives may have been saved. No prize is worth your life

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Summer Day Gone Wrong

It was a summer Saturday, and as the Wayfarer sailboats were getting ready to go out for their regatta, on Lake Ontario. The sky looked ominous. Despite the darkened skies half of the Wayfarer fleet decided to go out for the regatta because the committee had not cancelled the race.

Just as the boats went out as squall hit the waterfront and every single sailboat that headed out capsized. Fortunately for the sailors, the squall was short, and all Wayfarer sailors held on to their boats until the storm passed and everyone was rescued.

A keelboat participating in the regatta at the Toronto Yacht Club, however, was not so lucky. The wind had done a sudden shift; the boom came across suddenly; and one of the sailors was hit in the head. After some time in the hospital that week, news came that he passed away.

Toronto lost one of its accomplished medical professionals.

 

Boat Race Turns Deadly
KEY WEST, Florida (Nov. 9, 1995)

Marine authorities investigated two accidents at the Key West World Championship that left one offshore power boat racer dead and three others hospitalized.

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Marine authorities began investigations Thursday into two accidents at the Key West World Championship that left one offshore power boat racer dead and three others hospitalized.

Wind and sea conditions at the time of the Wednesday accidents were well within racing parameters, officials of Super Boat Racing, which runs the event, said Thursday.

The event's final heat will go on as scheduled Sunday, said SBR president John Carbonell.

"Unfortunately this sport is very dangerous," Carbonell said. "As a former racer, I know your life is on the blade of the sword at all times out there and anything can happen. Maybe that's why a lot these guys want to race."

Two racers remained hospitalized in critical condition and another in stable condition Thursday.

Carlos Gonzalez, 35, of Miami, navigator of Mr. K's and Frank's Marine, was airlifted to Miami's Cedars Medical Center after his 33-foot boat slammed into a wave and broke apart about 3 1/2 miles southwest of Key West.

The boat's throttle man, Jose Fereira, 41, of Miami, was pronounced dead on the scene. Funeral services for Fereira are scheduled for Friday.

The boat's driver, Rolando Garcia of Hialeah, was in stable condition at Lower Florida Keys Health System hospital.

James Finkl, 32, of Chicago, was in critical condition with head, neck and shoulder injuries. He was injured in a separate collision of two boats and was airlifted to Cedars.

Wind and sea conditions at the time of the Wednesday accidents were well within racing parameters, officials of Super Boat Racing, which runs the event, said Thursday.

The event's final heat will go on as scheduled Sunday, said SBR president John Carbonell.

"Unfortunately this sport is very dangerous," Carbonell said. "As a former racer, I know your life is on the blade of the sword at all times out there and anything can happen. Maybe that's why a lot these guys want to race."

Two racers remained hospitalized in critical condition and another in stable condition Thursday.

Carlos Gonzalez, 35, of Miami, navigator of Mr. K's and Frank's Marine, was airlifted to Miami's Cedars Medical Center after his 33-foot boat slammed into a wave and broke apart about 3 1/2 miles southwest of Key West.

The boat's throttle man, Jose Fereira, 41, of Miami, was pronounced dead on the scene. Funeral services for Fereira are scheduled for Friday.

The boat's driver, Rolando Garcia of Hialeah, was in stable condition at Lower Florida Keys Health System hospital.

James Finkl, 32, of Chicago, was in critical condition with head, neck and shoulder injuries. He was injured in a separate collision of two boats and was airlifted to Cedars.

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Sailboat Lost To Harsh Weather

The Toronto Sailing and Canoe Club was having its regular midweek sailing race.

The winds were high, as loved by all sailors, but the threat of them becoming stronger was looming.Despite this, everyone decided to go out on the water.

Unfortunately the winds picked up and all the dinghies in the fleet capsized. Safety boats were able to save everyone, but the sailboats had to be abandoned.

Two of the boats were unfortunately lost, and were found destroyed on the shores of the Toronto Island.

Being August, the water was warm enough that water temperature was not a factor.

On that afternoon, Anna Wharton, a very accomplished sailor, had lent her daughter Tanya her good PFD. Anna was wearing an oldt PFD.

When her sailboat capsized in the storm, Anna found out that her old PFD would only keep her afloat in the water with her head a foot below the surface.

Anna was forced to abandon her sailboat and get into the rescue boat.

Anna's sailboat was one of the sailboats lost on Toronto Island.

sailboat capsize
Always test your lifejacket on a regular basis, you never know when you'll be caught off guard.
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