A Newport-Ensanada race spokesman described a gray, subdued atmosphere Sunday afternoon as news spread that three and probably four sailors had died during the race.
“Theo Mavromatis, owner and skipper of Aegean, a 37-foot Hunter 376, and his crew of three were victims of a violent accident that destroyed their boat a few miles offshore near Mexico’s Coronado Islands at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday,” according to a statement issued this evening. “Three bodies were recovered and the U.S. Coast Guard was still searching for a fourth on Sunday.”
On Saturday, the bodies were turned over to the San Diego County coroner by Coast Guard officials based in San Diego, the statement said. The coroner’s office did not release the victims’ names pending notification of family members, but a separate source tentatively identified the crew members as Joseph Stewart, Michael Patton and Kevin Rudolph; it was not publicly known whether Mavromatis was among those found, the statement said.
The statement said that speculation was that the Aegean was struck and demolished by a merchant ship, which crossed the path of the 125-nautical mile race. Coast Guard investigators are tracking vessels that may have been in the area, the statement said. Both U.S. and Mexican large merchant ships and commercial fishing boats operate in the area, the statement said.
“Eric Lamb of Vessel Assist, a private marine assistance service, and his partner Bret Thompson, discovered the wreckage at about 10:30 a.m. Saturday virtually by accident,” the statement said. The discovery came nine hours after the boat disappeared from an online race tracking system. The statement said the debris was spread over a three-mile area, and that Lamb and Thompson came across it while responding to another call, identifying the boat by its name on a piece of the hull from the rear starboard side.
They notified the Coast Guard, and a Coast Guard helicopter spotted the victims’ bodies.
“A Mexican Navy vessel also joined the search for the fourth crew member, which continued with Coast Guard crews aboard a Jayhawk helicopter, a 45-foot response boat and a C-130 Hercules aircraft, as well as the Coast Guard cutter Sea Otter,” the statement said.
Mavromatis is president and chief executive of Manhattan Beach-based Aegean Consulting Inc., a company that specializes in the telecommunications and aerospace industries, the statement said.
The race had 210 entries; 200 started and 160 finished. The fatalities were the first in the race’s 65-year history.
Silent prayers were given, led by NOSA Commodore Chuck Iverson and master of ceremonies Gator Cook, before trophies were given on Sunday.
The President of USA Trophy, considered the most prestigious prize, as well as a two-year lease on a 2013 Lexus GS 350 went in absentia to Bob Lane, a Long Beach Yacht Club veteran sailor and pharmacist, for the best corrected time overall, according to the statement.
Corona del Mar resident Nik Froehlich and his boat, Tara, placed second in the Cruz Spinnaker A Class — beaten by the boat Salacia by 36 seconds.
“The crew from Salacia won First three years in a row now,” Froehlich said in a text message. “They are professional and Olympic champions. We lost to a very strong competitor. They complimented our performance several times. We were flattered. Lots of fun.”
Complete race results are available here.