Salvation operations of the 38-foot sailing vessel named the Low Speed Chase that ran aground during a race around The Farallon Islands April 14 commenced this evening when an Aris helicopter airlifted the roughly 15,000-pound boat, transporting it to the Half Moon Bay airport in Moss Beach.
Teams began searching for the crewmembers since the Coast Guard was alerted at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 14, that the 38-ft. boat had run aground and crashed into rocks when it was struck by a large wave that swept five of its eight crewmembers overboard during the Full Crew Farallones Race. Those five crewmembers died during what's usually a routine race.
An oversized big rig was brought in from San Diego this afternoon to lay the boat on when the sky crane returned to the airport with the wreckage.
Ballard Diving and Salvage crew members prepared the wreckage and hoisted the vessel, U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Doug Cordell said.
"The operation went fairly smoothly and quickly," Cordell said.
Cordell added that in order to recover the yacht, salvage crews had to negotiate a number of obstacles, including rocky terrain, inclement weather, and a fragile ecosystem.
The Farallon Islands are host to a wide variety of wildlife, including the largest nesting seabird colony south of Alaska, Cordell said. Those birds are expected to begin laying eggs as soon as next week, which meant the salvage crew had a limited opportunity to access the wreckage, he said.
"If we didn't do it within the next several days, we would have had to wait until probably October," Cordell said.
Cordell said today's recovery was successful with minimal impact to the islands' wildlife.
— Additional reporting by Bay City News
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