By Associated Press - Sunday, April 15, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A powerful wave swept four crew members off a sailboat during a race near San Francisco, leaving one person dead and four others missing, the Coast Guard said early Sunday.

The eight-member crew aboard the 38-foot Low Speed Chase was participating in a yacht race from San Francisco Bay around the Farallon Islands on Saturday afternoon as their craft ran aground.

Seas were running high at 10 to 12 feet when the Low Speed Chase was hit by a larger wave and the four were washed 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 said.

A mayday call reporting the accident went out at about 3 p.m. PDT.

Coast Guard and National Guard helicopters and watercraft rescued three crew members who were clinging to rocks, Petty Officer Read said. The body of the other crew member was pulled from the water.

A Coast Guard helicopter, a cutter and a smaller boat were searching the waters around the islands, 27 miles west of San Francisco, as well as shoreline areas early Sunday for the missing crew members.

Dozens of boats were registered for the Full Crew Farallones Race, running from the St. Francis Yacht Club on San Francisco Bay to the islands and back, about 60 miles round trip, Petty Officer Read said.

Rescuers found the three crew members on or near the shore clinging to rocks, about 300 feet from where their vessel was breaking up because of the powerful waves, he said.

They were wearing life vests and cold-weather gear — equipment that gave rescuers hope in the search for the missing.

“There is the possibility that the other four were also in the same kind of gear,” Petty Officer Read said.

He said he didn’t know if the four missing were the same crew members who were swept from the boat.

The search was expected to continue through the night, as long as there was a chance there were survivors, the Coast Guard said.

The names of the eight crew members were not released, and there was no immediate word on the condition of the three survivors.

The Yacht Racing Association of San Francisco Bay expressed sympathy for the dead crew member and hope for those missing.

“We offer our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of the missing crew in hopes they are returned home safely,” the association said in a statement on its website.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Low Speed Chase is based out of the San Francisco Yacht Club, located in Marin County’s Belvedere Cove. The manager of the club declined immediate comment.

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