Peppermint Grove’s Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club mourning death of sailors who died during club’s Bunbury and Return Ocean Race

Peppermint Grove’s Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club mourning death of sailors who died during club’s Bunbury and Return Ocean Race

FLAGS at Peppermint Grove’s Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club (RFBYC) are at half-mast after Nedlands yachtsman Robert Thomas (70) and Bull Creek crew member Paul Owens (60) died in the club’s 70th annual Bunbury and Return Ocean Race overnight off Mandurah late last Friday.

Mr Thomas’ yacht Finistere may have capsized with its six crew 11 nautical miles (20.3km) south-west of Mandurah during the first leg of the 170 nautical mile (315km) race.

A Department of Transport (DoT) spokeswoman said it was unlikely a search would be conducted for the yacht’s keel because of the water’s depth, and the yacht’s hull had been taken to a slipyard in Mandurah.

The spokeswoman said police would investigated the tragedy, in conjunction with a DoT inquiry for a coroner’s report.

She said it was not yet know when the yacht was last structurally examined, but there was no legal requirement for any survey of the vessel because it was used for recreation.

On Friday, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority received a distress beacon signal at 11.45pm, but attempts to contact the yacht by radio were unsuccessful before its tracker failed to update at midnight.

The RAC Rescue Helicopter, on exercise in the area, and race entrants Huckleberry and Fourth Dimension , which were diverted to the capsize by the club, arrived at the Finistere about 12.30am.

Mr Owens was dead when he and four others were pulled aboard by yachts’ crews, and Mr Thomas’ body was found during a search using aircraft, yachts, volunteers rescuers and police the following day.

RFBYC Commodore Dean McAullay said it was too early to suggest how Finistere may have capsized.

 

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