TWO Irishmen are feared drowned after powerful waves swept them from their yacht during a 60-mile roundtrip off San Francisco.
One sailor died and four others of the seven-man crew, including the missing Irish sailors have been named as Alan Cahill, who has been living in Tiburon in California for many years and his friend Elmer Morrissey who had travelled to the US on a visit.
Mr Cahill is a professional sailor who crews racing yachts all over the globe. It is believed to have been Mr Morrissey's second day in the US.
The Coast Guard made the decision to stand down the search after covering more than 5,000 square miles of ocean over more than 30 hours.
The 38-ft Low Speed Chase was competing on Saturday in the race from San Francisco Bay around the Farallon Islands, some 27 miles off the US west coast.
The race is held annually since 1907 and this year’s contest had 49 vessels competing.
Seas were rough, with waves running as high as 10 to 12ft, when the vessel was hit by a larger wave that washed some of the crew members overboard, Coast Guard Petty Officer Levi Read said.
"They turned the boat around to go rescue those people and they got hit by another wave," sending the boat onto rocks, he added.
A mayday call reporting the accident went out at about 3pm local time.
Coast Guard and National Guard helicopters and water craft rescued three crew members who were clinging to rocks, about 300ft from their damaged vessel, Mr Read said.
The body of one crew member was pulled from the water.
All were wearing life vests and cold weather gear.
Three helicopters, two cutters and a smaller boat were searching the waters around the islands yesterday, as well as shoreline areas for the missing crew members.
"It's a tragedy of unbelievable proportions," said club director Ed Lynch. "It doesn't affect just this club, it affects sailors all over the world. It's going to hit us hard for a long, long time.
"We're all deeply saddened."
The search for remaining survivors has since been called off.The Coast Guard made the decision to stand down the search after covering more than 5,000 square miles of ocean over more than 30 hours.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said consular staff in San Francisco were liaising with the US Coast Guard.
Additional reporting Ralph Riegel and Edel O'Connell