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Yacht may have struck rocks

Early speculation focused on the Aegean colliding with a larger vessel, but a commercial GPS device landed on an island. It's not clear if the device just floated there after the incident.

May 01, 2012|By Mike Reicher
  • New speculation about the demise of the Aegean, pictured, is that the 37-foot boat could have hit the rocks off North Coronado Island on the way to Ensenada. A commercial GPS tracking device was determined to have landed on the jagged island about 15 miles south of San Diego Bay.
New speculation about the demise of the Aegean, pictured,… (DON BARTLETTI,…)

A GPS device from the doomed racing boat Aegean struck a jagged island, an online tracking system shows.

The sailing community was buzzing with the news Tuesday, as racers emailed a link to Spot, a personal satellite tracking company, and speculated anew about the original theory of the accident. Up to now, many thought that the 37-foot Aegean was struck by a larger commercial vessel, such as a tanker or freighter.

The accident claimed four sailors' lives Saturday during the annual Newport-to-Ensenada race. One body has not yet been recovered.

Spot hosts webpages at http://www.findmespot.com where friends and family members of sailors can check in on a boat's progress.

The track for the vessel identified as the Aegean shows the GPS device aground on the north end of North Coronado Island at 1:36 a.m. — the time that race organizers said the accident occurred. The Coronado Islands are about 15 miles south of San Diego Bay.

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It is unclear how the Spot tracking map first surfaced and if race organizers were aware of it when they promulgated the first accident theory.

It also remained unclear Tuesday whether the device was aboard the Aegean and indicates a collision, or whether it floated there after something else sunk the ship.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Sean Groark said that investigators have been aware of the tracking map, after either one of the racer's family members or the race organizers provided the information.

But he could not attest to the accuracy of the GPS-based tracking service because it is commercially operated.

"The Coast Guard is aware of it, and we take that information into account," Groark said. "We investigate all possibilities and endeavor to not jump to conclusions."

Striking the island at night is a plausible theory, said Brad Avery, director of the Orange Coast College School of Sailing and Seamanship.

Cruising boats are permitted to sail on autopilot in the Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race, and the Aegean was in the cruising class.

"We had a villain for a long while," Avery said, "and now you just have human error by the crew, if that is what occurred."

Ensenada racer Scot Tempesta posted a link to the tracking system on his widely read website Sailing Anarchy on Tuesday, igniting the speculation.

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