Two crew members aged in their 60s and 70s have died off the coast of Mandurah after a yacht they were sailing in an open water race overturned 11 nautical miles off-shore about midnight on Saturday. 

Six crew members were aboard the 15-metre yacht Finistere competing in the 70th Bunbury and Return Ocean Race when it overturned.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority detected a distress beacon from the vessel at 11.45pm on Friday night but attempts to contact the crew on board were unsuccessful and the yacht’s tracker failed to update at midnight.

Two other yachts competing in the race – Huckleberry and Fourth Dimension – and the RAC Rescue helicopter arrived at the scene about 12.30am and rescued five of the six crew members from the water.

One of the five sailors had already died, while a sixth was missing, with an extensive search operation carried out on Saturday involving other race competitors, WA Police, DFES, State Emergency Service teams and Volunteer Marine Rescue crews.

The missing crew member was found deceased in the water and recovered by Fremantle Water Police about 12.30pm on Saturday.

An AMSA spokeswoman said the vessel was competing in the race when it overturned.

“Attempts to contact the yacht directly via radio were not successful,” she said.

Huckleberry transferred surviving crew members to shore for medical treatment.

Weather conditions in the area were described as south easterly winds, 15 to 20 knots, with one to two metre seas.

The 170 nautical mile race, which started on Friday, goes from Fremantle to Bunbury.

Finistere owner Robert Thomas, who was listed as the skipper for the race, is heavily involved in the Fremantle Sailing Club and once held the position of Rear Commodore of Sail. 

The yacht competes regularly in WA and had previously completed the prestigious Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

“AMSA would like to express its sincere condolences to the family and friends of the Finistere’s crew,” the marine authority said in a statement.

“AMSA would also like to thank all parties involved in today’s extensive search.”

The incident has been referred to police who will prepare a report for the coroner.

Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club Commodore Dean McAullay said it was too early to speculate about the incident and the authorities would undertake the appropriate enquiries….


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Two crew die off West Australian coast during Bunbury yacht race
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