The Regata de Amigos, a 610-mile race from Galveston, Texas, to Veracruz, Mexico, turned deadly Friday night for Texas A&M Univerity’s entry, Cynthia Woods, just hours after the race’s 2 p.m. start. The Cape Fear 38, crewed by four students and two safety officers, was under sail around 11:45 p.m., with the three off-watch crewmembers below, when water started pouring into the boat. The off-watch safety officer, Roger Stone, 53, woke the two students and shoved them out the companionway as the boat started to turn turtle. Stone never made it out.
The five crew were thrown in the water where they strapped themselves together and stayed afloat with just four lifevests. Within minutes, they had drifted far from their stricken vessel and began paddling toward an oil rig in the distance, keeping in a tight formation with the fifth lifevestless crewmember in the middle.
When Cynthia Woods failed to check in at 8 a.m. as scheduled, A&M reported the boat missing to the Coast Guard. A little after 5 p.m. on Saturday, the capsized boat was found with its keel missing, and a search for the crew began. It was another nine hours before they were found, when a helo spotted the faint glimmer of security officer Steve Conway’s flashlight.
It’s not known why the keel parted from the boat but early speculation is that Cynthia Woods collided with a submerged object, ripping the keel off. The survivors report that the boat capsized within a minute, making it impossible to grab any other lifesaving gear.