Friends and local sailors are deeply saddened over the loss of a local, 36-year-old man killed in a sailboat racing accident off San Clemente Island.
On Friday night, Silver Gate Yacht Club member Craig Williams was killed aboard a 30-foot sailboat competing in the Southern California Islands Race.
The 32-foot sailboat – named “Uncontrollable Urge” -- experienced rudder failure around 9:30 p.m. As the crew, which included Williams and five others, tried to anchor and launch a life raft, they drifted closer to the island located southwest of Catalina off the coast of Southern California.
The sailboat was eventually ripped apart by rocks and waves in an 8-foot surf and the crew was forced to abandon the vessel.
San Diego-based U.S. Coast Guard crews had launched a rescue mission to save the crew, eventually pulling the six sailors from the water.
Williams was among the crew, and was the only person who died in the sailing accident. Officials say he was found unresponsive in the water.
Five surviving sailors were rescued from the surf in hazardous weather conditions caused by a powerful winter storm. They were treated and released from the hospital.
“[The rescue was captured] all on night-vision goggles and infrared camera, which we use to help locate the people. The winds were quite stiff for down here in Southern California – 25 to 30-knots out of the west and the seas were anywhere from six to eight feet,” explained John Bartel with the USCG.
The “Uncontrollable Urge” is a Columbia Carbon 32 owned and skippered by James Gilmore of the Silver Gate Yacht Club on Shelter Island. The day before the race, Gilmore posted updates on Twitter about taking his new boat out on the water.
Williams, also a member of the Silver Gate Yacht Club, owned his own boat named “Uproarious.”
Family and friends spoke to NBC 7 about Williams Saturday night, saying they would forever remember him as an avid sailor and devoted father and husband.
Loved ones say Williams, an architect who lived in Serra Mesa, was taken much too soon doing what he loved.
Silver Gate Yacht Club commodore Carey Storm said Williams was an important part of the local club.
“He was a very integral member of our yacht club and it’s a tragic loss,” said Storm.
Chuck Hope of the San Diego Yacht Club told NBC 7 the loss of Williams is a devastating blow to the local sailing community.
“These guys take their sport very seriously and there are risks involved and they don’t take losing a sailor lightly,” said Hope.
Besides his passion for sailing, friends told NBC 7 Williams was a dedicated husband and father to a two-year-old daughter. He was anticipating the birth of his second child due this summer.
Following the tragic sailing accident, the Island Race website posted the following message to their homepage: “Our deepest sympathies and prayers go out to the crew and family of the Uncontrollable Urge.”
The website released the names of the five surviving sailors aboard the vessel, which included owner and skipper James Gilmore and sailors Mike Skillicorn, Doug Pajak, Ryan Georgianna and Vince Valdes.
On Sunday, Gilmore, the owner and skipper of the “Uncontrollable Urge” posted the following message to the San Diego Yacht Club website:
“As we try to piece together the horrific events of Friday night and early Saturday morning, the crew of Uncontrollable Urge wants to express their appreciation for the support of the sailing and land-based communities at this difficult time. We are all grieving and share in the loss of this loved family man and team member. There are no words to express how much Craig meant to each of us, and we know how much his loss is felt in the Williams family. We would also like to thank the US Coast Guard for their assistance and professionalism. Without their heroism, the outcome of this tragedy would have been much worse.”
Meanwhile, the Silver Gate Yach Club website posted the following message about the accident:
“This is a very difficult time for the Williams family, the skipper of Uncontrollable Urge and the other surviving crew members. Silver Gate Yacht Club and the entire Southern California racing community is a close family, and the loss of one of our members impacts us all greatly. Our thoughts and prayers are with all who have been impacted by this tragic occurrence and we will continue to offer support and provide whatever privacy we can for them during this trying time.”
The Silver Gate Yacht Club has established a memorial fund for the Williams family. Those who wish to donate can do so by visiting this webpage.
As of Sunday, dozens of donations had been made to the Williams family memorial fund. The donations were accompanied by touching online posts from friends mourning the loss of Williams, whom they regarded as a good friend and mentor.
Some of the posts read:
“Craig I'm gonna miss you. All those talks we had about sailing, races we'd love to do on Uproarious, that voice mail I left you before I found out... I'll always be waiting for that return call from you.”
"You will be in our hearts forever, you are missed. As always, remain Committed To Excellence! We love you."
"Words are insufficient to express the sorrow this community feels for your loss."
“Craig, I am going to miss you. You taught me a lot about racing, and opened my eyes to lifestyles that I can have to maintain sailing in my life. Thanks for having me on board.”
This marks the second fatal sailboat racing accident in our region in less than one year.
Last April, four sailors were killed in a sailboat race from Newport to Ensenada. Parts of that vessel were found scattered near the Coronado Islands.