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April 24, 2012

Sailboat Runs Aground on South Farallon Island - 5 Dead

This is a pretty wild story about a sailboat race they held out here last weekend. Apparently, one of the boats ran aground and a bunch of people didn't make it. This guy describes a pretty harrowing ordeal:

"[...]Suddenly, and without much warning, the boat was in the path of a large wave.

"It's coming from the same direction as the other swells, but it's massive," Chong wrote. "I've seen large waves before, but this is unlike anything I've even seen outside of big-wave surf videos."

As the wave approached, Alan Cahill, a professional sailor who was at the helm, turned the boat into the "a wall of crashing water" to try to avert disaster, Chong wrote.

"The last thing I see is the boat tipping toward vertical with a band of water still above it," Chong said. "A single thought races through my head: 'This is going to be bad.'"

Chong was thrown underwater while the boat surfed backward on the wave, turned 90 degrees counter-clockwise and barrel-rolled.

"I was under water until the boat righted itself," Chong said. "Confused and disoriented, I looked around while water cleared off the deck. Nick (Vos) and I were the only ones still on the boat. The sails were shredded, the mast snapped and every flotation device had been ripped off."

As he and Vos, who broke his leg while clinging to the boat, tried to drag their fellow crew members back on board, a second wave struck from behind, ripping Chong off the boat and throwing him into the water.

The wave tossed the 15,000-pound boat high on the island's rocks, where it stayed until Monday, when a helicopter airlifted it to Half Moon Bay.

Chong, who like all members of the crew was wearing a life jacket, floated in the frigid, frothing waters of the Pacific for 15 minutes before dragging himself onto the island. "Those 15 minutes in the water were the absolute scariest in my life," he wrote.

"People have asked me if I swam for shore," Chong said. "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."

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Posted by Rob Kiser on April 24, 2012 at 10:04 PM

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