Skip to content

Fromm Found; Investigation Panel TBA

The body of a deceased sailor found floating offshore Thursday has been positively identified as that of Jordan Fromm, 25, of Kentfield. He was one of five fatalities during the Full Crew Farallones Race on April 14. The bodies of Alexis Busch, Alan Cahill and Elmer Morrissey still have not been found.

Even as Fromm’s body lay in the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s facility awaiting identification late last week, controversy brewed within the local sailing community over the decision by Coast Guard Captain of the Port Cindy Stowe to temporarily suspend permits for local offshore races. Without a valid permit, the Yacht Racing Association (YRA) and other local organizations cannot, in effect, run their races, as — the way we understand it — their liability insurance would be invalid, and fines up to $2,500 could be incurred.

Although the CG’s decision was unprecedented, at least within this jurisdiction, our conversation with Capt. Stowe on Saturday helped clarify her position. "I refer to this as a pause in activity," she said, "so we can all see what we can learn from this tragedy, and reflect on the safety of future events." Her office issues permits for over 1,300 marine events annually — roughly twice as many as anywhere else in the country — of which 24 are offshore races. The Bay Area’s 11th CG District also responds to far more search and rescue calls than any other U.S. jurisdiction. Given that combination of factors, we’re not terribly surprised that the decision was made (locally, by the way) to put the brakes on offshore racing for an interim period, while an in-depth review of safety protocols is carried out. 

Even though searching for wayward mariners and dealing with tragic losses is all in a day’s work for Guardsmen, it’s fair to say that neither executing nor overseeing such tasks can be accomplished with complete emotional detachment. Stowe herself was frequently in touch with family members of all five victims, beginning on the afternoon of the incident. And it was she who ultimately had to call them all to report that the search for their loved ones had been called off.

While comments about the postponement decision found on racing and sailing blogs (such as our Facebook site) reflect both ire and empathy, Laura Muñoz, executive director of the YRA explains, "I do understand the frustration, but I think we all need to take a step back right now. If we can make things safer, the review process will be well worth doing."

As reported earlier, US Sailing has been asked by the CG to participate in the review process, in which "YRA will have a voice," according to Muñoz, as will other regional racing experts. US Sailing president Gary Jobson is expected to release the list of panel participants soon, possibly today. "The goal is to be finished with the review before the Spinnaker Cup," explained Muñoz. It is slated to run from the Bay to Monterey, May 25-26.

Leave a Comment

We don’t normally publish ‘Lectronic Latitude on Tuesdays, so we need to tell you today that the May edition of Latitude 38 will hit the streets tomorrow.