US Coast Guard calls off search for four men swept overboard in yacht race

The US Coast Guard has called off a search for four men who went missing after being swept overboard during a yacht race at the weekend.

Seven of the eight-strong crew were thrown into the Pacific Ocean after a series of accidents brought the Full Crew Farallones Race to a tragic end on Sunday.

It is believed all members of the crew were wearing life vests and foul weather gear when they were thrown overboard, which gave the search team hope they could recover the four missing men. Three helicopters, a surveillance plane, two patrol boats and a larger cutter were all involved in the rescue mission.

The body of 46-year-old Marc Kasanin, from California, was recovered just hours after the accident. Three of the crew were rescued by helicopter (pictured above) when they were spotted on one of the islands 300 feet from the damaged yacht. The four other men, from California and Ireland, are still missing.

The US Coast Guard called off the search after scouring more than 5,000 square miles of ocean for over 30 hours.

“There’s a window of survivability and we searched well beyond that window,” Petty Officer Caleb Critchfield told the Associated Press.

According to the AP, four of the crew on board Low Speed Chase were swept into the water by a large wave and then, as the yacht turned around to recover the MOBs, three more members were thrown overboard by a second wave. The yacht, which had just one crewmember left on board, then ran aground about 25 miles offshore.

R. David Britt, who was competing in the Full Crew Farallones Race, said he was just ahead of Low Speed Chase when the accident happened and described 20ft swells breaking on the course.

“The worst thing is to have a wave break on you,” he said. “You can go up and down, up and down, but if a wave breaks on the cockpit on top of the crew, that’s how somebody could get swept out of the boat.”

The death of Kasanin is the first known fatality in the 143-year history of the Full Crew Farallones Race, said Ed Lynch, director of the San Francisco Yacht Club.

A candlelight vigil and a prayer Sunday service were held at the yacht club to honour the missing crewmembers and Kasanin.

Image courtesy of the US Coastguard