J/120 Sinks – Update

J/120 Sinks – Update

We’ve heard from two sources that the J/120 J/World, sailing in the Baja Ha skippered by our friend Wayne Zittel has sunk today somewhere off of Ensenada. All on board are thought to have escaped to a liferaft but we don’t know anything else. Anybody?

6:41 AM

Hey All –

Thanks for all the good thoughts.

Yes, the boat has sunk but everyone is safe and sound.

The boat was heading south in the Baja-Ha-Ha with two instructors (Eugenie and Barry) and three students on our annual cruise south to our Puerto Vallarta location. They put into Ensenada briefly for some minor repairs (a loose wire in the wiring harness seems to have been the culprit), then headed back out Tuesday morning. I got an email from them in the evening reporting that all was fine and they were making good time. They made the scheduled roll call in the AM.

Here is what I know from the brief conversations I have had with the crew: about 10am, they came across a pod of whales. Their behavior was described as ‘erratic.’ One or more of the whales struck the boat repeatedly, and the boat began taking on water at a rapid pace. It sounds like, not surprisingly, most of the damage was around the rudder. They made an attempt to bail the boat and get a distress call out on SSB, but it was clear that the boat was a loss. They activated the EPIRB, boarded the liferaft, and the boat was reportedly gone within 7 minutes of the strike. As I understand it, the boat did not capsize in any way.

I was in contact with the the USCG from the time the EPIRB went off. They did an absolutely stellar job. Within four hours, they reported that they had safely lifted all five sailors into the helicopter and were returning to San Diego. Eugenie has a bruised hand, but there were no other injuries. I personally am in shock… this is the stuff you read about but you think will never really happen. You can make all the preparations in the world, load boat with experienced sailors, and still have unexpected consequences. A bit humbling, to be sure. We all need to remember that when we go sailing, we really go to sea in every sense.

I know we will get a good debrief from the crew, and we’ll be sure to post more info and some ‘lessons learned,’ but I am tremendously relieved that everyone is safe. All of us here at J World are in deep gratitude to the folks of the USCG. Man, they run a great operation. Here’s the video of the rescue.

Anyway, that’s the latest report from here… we can put to rest the questions of keels and structural failure and all that… the boat was a great boat. She was hull #9, the ex-Gannett, ex-Crosswave, now known simply as "J World." We sailed her some 10,000+ open ocean miles per year, and raced her in San Francisco and Mexico, not to mention subjecting her to all the abuses that students can dish out, and she took it in stride.

Anyway, thanks again to all of you out there for the support…

All the best,

Wayne Zittel
J World Performance Sailing School
San Francisco Bay | Puerto Vallarta, Mexico