We can’t imagine how hard it was for Bryan Chong to write this letter, but we think he did an incredible job both honoring his crew mates and carefully examining if doing anything differently would have affected the outcome. All sailors should take a moment to read through the letter in its entirety.
The wave that struck the yacht Low Speed Chase near the Farallon Islands and ultimately killed five crew members was “unlike anything I’ve ever seen outside of big-wave surf videos,” survivor Bryan Chong said Tuesday.
In a nearly 4,000-word statement titled “Letter to the Community,” Chong gave the first public account from a survivor of the crew’s experience during the Full Crew Farallones Race on April 14.
The incident illustrates how “things can look normal until one event changes everything,” wrote Chong, an experienced sailor who defended the sport of ocean sailboat racing but said a greater focus on safety is needed.
“It’s my hope and intention that it will spark a wider dialogue within the sailing community about safety standards and, more importantly, safety practices,” he wrote.
Chong, 38, of Tiburon, was one of three crew members who survived, along with James “Jay” Bradford of Chicago and Nick Vos of Sonoma.
Marc Kasanin of Belvedere was killed and four others were lost at sea and are presumed dead — Alan Cahill of Tiburon, Jordan Fromm of Kentfield, Alexis Busch of Tiburon and Elmer Morrissey, a visiting researcher from Ireland.
A marine salvage company used a helicopter equipped with a crane Monday to pluck the 15,000-pound yacht from one of the Farallon Islands and fly it 28 miles to the Half Moon Bay airport.
In a chilling account, Chong described how his team fell behind at the outset of the race amid “still air” and gave up hope of a victory. The sail toward the Farallones was “uneventful,” he wrote.
“The mood on the boat is relaxed,” he wrote of the sail toward the islands. “We’ve accepted our place in the back of the pack now, so there is no need to risk equipment or safety. Our mindset is definitely not aggressive.”
As the crew approached the South Farallon Islands, Chong controlled the main sail while Cahill — a professional sailor who was “by far the best driver with the most ocean experience” — took the helm.
For the complete story, go to www.marinij.com and for the complete letter, go www.sailingscuttlebutt.com. The boat was salvaged off the rocks earlier this week via sky crane. For video, go to www.abclocal.com.