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Two Irish sailors feared drowned

TWO Irish sailors are feared drowned after a monster wave smashed into their boat during a California yacht race.

Father-of-two Alan Cahill (36) and Elmer Morrissey (32) were amongst four sailors swept overboard from the 12 metre cruiser, Low Speed Chase.

The search for the men was called off overnight after the yacht was hit by a giant wave off South Farallon Island.

The event – organised by the 143-year old San Francisco Yacht Club (SFYC) – is one of the most prestigious races staged annually off the California coast.

The accident happened on Saturday afternoon. US Coast Guard Petty Officer Levi Read told the Herald that everything possible was being done to locate the missing sailors.

The search resumed at first light today, but hopes of finding the men are now fading.

Alan Cahill is originally from the Killeens-Blarney area, some 15km outside Cork city.

His mother Noreen Cahill – flanked by Alan’s sister Tracey – told the Herald today that she was “heartbroken”.

She added: “We have nothing to say today. We are too upset to say anything. We may talk in a few days time but we are just heartbroken.”

The Cahill family home – located just off the Cork/Limerick motorway – was visited throughout the day by friends, neighbours and relatives who called to express their sympathy.


Mr Cahill was a full-time sailor whereas the other Irishman missing in the tragedy, Mr Morrissey was going sailing as a part of a day out.

Mr Morrissey is from Glounthaune on the eastern outskirts of Cork city.

He had been based in the US for the past number of years and had worked in research and development in Ireland.

Lifelong sailor Mr Cahill had in recent years worked as a professional crewman on some of the world’s fastest boats.

He is a graduate of Christian Brothers College and was described by one neighbour as a lifelong sports fan.

The men’s cruiser was racing in rough conditions and, without warning, was hit by a giant wave.

Ed Lynch, of the SFYC, paid tribute to Mr Cahill, describing him as a “close personal friend and neighbour”.

Alan is married to wife |Shannon, Mr Lynch said, and the couple have two young |children.

“The race community is a very tight-knit group of people, and obviously this tragedy has reached far and wide around the world. It's an event that will give everybody pause,” Mr Lynch told the Herald.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is now liaising with the US authorities over the tragedy.

“No one can believe it – we heard the news and everyone thought it was some kind of mistake,” said a Blarney resident.

hnews@herald.ie\[Mark Evans\]He is understood to have been in on holiday in San Francisco for just two days before the tragedy.

His parents are currently on holiday in Spain and his sister is resident in the UK. Officials from the yacht club have established contact with his sister to confirm he was missing following the tragedy.

Both men are understood to have sailed in Cork from Kinsale and Crosshaven.

The tragedy is the first fatal accident in the history of the SFYC and club director Ed Lynch said everyone involved in US offshore racing is devastated.

The vessel’s skipper and owner, James Bradford (41), was among the three survivors whom the U.S. Coast Guard, assisted by National Guard helicopters, pulled from one of the islands about 300 feet (90 meters) from their crippled vessel.

Bradford and another crew member were briefly treated at a hospital while the other survivor was admitted overnight with a broken leg and bruises.

The other survivor has not been named. The seven men and one woman on board ranged in age from their 20s to their 40s.

The dead crewman has been named as Marc Kasanin (46) from California.

The missing crewmen are Mr Cahill, Mr Morrissey, Jordan Fromm from California and Alexis Busch from California, the only woman on board.

The cruiser ran into difficulty when it was racing in rough conditions and, without warning, was struck by a giant wave.

This swept a number of crew members overboard – and, when the cruiser reversed course to rescue them, it was struck by another wave which swept all bar one of the remaining crew members overboard.

The sole crew member on board was injured and the vessel was swept onto rocks by a nearby island.

The US Coastguard said a full search will resume at first light today (Monday).

Three helicopters, a surveillance plane, two patrol boats and a larger cutter were visually searching a 15-mile (24-kilometer) by 30-mile (48-kilometer) swath of water around the islands as well as shoreline areas Sunday for the missing crew members.

The entire crew was believed to have been wearing life vests and foul weather gear which made rescuers optimistic they will eventually locate them, Mr Read said.

Yesterday’s search was one of the biggest ever mounted off San Francisco and featured coastguard, fishing and US Navy vessels as well as special Search And Rescue (SAR) helicopters.

The body of one sailor was later recovered from the water – but no trace was found of the other missing sailors.

The accident came two weeks after a monster wave smashed into an Australian yacht taking part in a round-the-world race.

Four crew members were hurt in that accident, which took place 400 nautical miles off the California coast, and the US Coast Guard had to be called in to help.

No one was killed.

David Britt, a University of California chemist who skippered his sailboat, Split Water, in the Full Crew Farallones Race for the third time on Saturday, described the sailing out by the islands that day as “pretty intense.”

“The worst thing is to have a wave break on you. 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,” he said.

Mr Britt thinks he was not far ahead of Low Speed Chase as they rounded the islands and thought it strange when he looked back later and no longer saw his competitor.