Organizers of the famed Newport Beach-to-Ensenada sailing regatta were stunned by the mysterious loss of four crew members aboard a 37-foot boat that disappeared in mid-race, marking the first fatalities in the event's 65-year history.
While the U.S. Coast Guard was still investigating the accident, regatta organizers said they believed the boat was hit and demolished by a much larger ship — perhaps a freighter or tanker — passing in the dark early Saturday.
The boat disappeared from the online tracking system around 1:30 a.m. Saturday. Two sailors on other boats recalled seeing a large ship in the area.
"We're all in shock," said Chuck Iverson, commodore of the Newport Ocean Sailing Assn., sponsor of the 125-mile race, which is one of the sport's most popular. "We're still trying to piece it together and find out more from the investigation."
Three bodies were recovered Saturday from a scattered debris field near the Coronado Islands, about 15 miles south of San Diego. None was wearing a life jacket.