June 21-25 was the first running of Race Week PNW, a replacement regatta for the former Whidbey Island Race Week. Unfortunately, tragedy struck during this inaugural event when experienced sailor Greg Meuller died during a race while managing the foredeck on the J/120 With Grace. The reporting below, from the Seattle Times, provides more insight:
Seattle sailor Greg Mueller, 58, crewing on the J/120 With Grace, died on Tuesday afternoon [June 22] after falling overboard while racing.
Mueller was the team’s foredeck, and according to With Grace skipper Chris Johnson, Mueller had stepped into a line that looped around his foot just as the spinnaker filled. Mueller was jerked off the boat where he dangled upside down by his foot, about 8 to 10 feet in the air, before plunging into the water where he was dragged alongside the boat, still connected by the line.
Crew members rushed to bring him back on board, where they took turns performing CPR, while another teammate of the eight-person crew called the race committee to get help.
Several team members aboard the vessel had completed Safety at Sea training provided by the Coast Guard, Johnson said, but there was little more they could do except call for medical attention.
Johnson said Mueller had spent two to three minutes in the water by the time his crew could slow the boat enough to bring him back aboard the ship. Though he was wearing a personal flotation device, it was of little use because of the way he was positioned in the water.
Two boats from the race committee arrived to assist, but they had no medical personnel on board, according to crew members. Eventually, a speedboat came to take Mueller to Guemes Island, where a medical team received him.
The crew was uncertain whether Mueller still was alive when the speedboat arrived. They received a call shortly afterward with the news he had died.
The Skagit County coroner’s office said an autopsy was scheduled for June 25 and that it would release information on the cause of death by June 28.
Johnson said Mueller had been a member of the With Grace crew since the purchase of the boat in 2014.
“Greg was a very key part of our team,” said crewmate Ken Jones. “He knew exactly when the sail should be changed and what size to use. He could predict problems and gave us clear directions. There are a lot of lines that have to be led just perfectly. Most of us had no idea what he did; everything was done for us, and we really relied on him.”
A longtime member of the Washington Yacht Club, Mueller was an avid racer in the region.
“Sailing accidents can happen to anybody,” said WYC member Raz Barnea. “When they happen to someone as skilled as Greg, it really puts it into perspective that something can go wrong.”
Latitude 38 editor Chris Weaver, who’s currently covering the Singlehanded Transpacific Race, learned that Mueller had been scheduled to do the delivery from Hawaii to Seattle with SHTP competitor John Wilkerson aboard his Express 37 Perplexity.