National Sailing Hall of Fame member rescued off Sanibel

National Sailing Hall of Fame member rescued off Sanibel after craft capsizes during race.

Randy Smyth's attempt at repeating or beating a record he set in 2017 in an 300-mile expedition-style race down the west coast of Florida fell short on Saturday when the National Sailing Hall of Fame member's boat capsized 12 miles south of Sanibel Island.

Smyth, 63, of Fort Walton Beach, one of North America's top multihull sailors, was rescued without injury off his 20-foot trimaran sailboat Sizzor by the U.S. Coast Guard.

RANDY SMYTH

At 9 p.m., Coast Guard 7th District Command Center watchstanders received a personal locator beacon activation connected to the Water Tribe Everglades Challenge. The annual race from Tampa to Key Largo is run by sailors in sea kayaks, canoes and small boats.

The Coast Guard's St. Petersburg station verified the owner of the beacon was Smyth and contacted him via VHF-FM marine band radio. Smyth stated his sailboat had capsized and was in need of emergency assistance.

A 29-foot Response Boat Small-II boat crew from the Coast Guard's Fort Myers Beach station was launched and rescued Smyth. 

Smyth could not be reached for comment.

"Locator beacons like a PLB or EPIRB can give us an extremely accurate position when used during an emergency," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesse Ameigh, officer of the day at Fort Myers Beach Coast Guard station. "Mr. Smyth was well prepared with a PLB, and the rest of his safety equipment was readily available."

Smyth is one of nine Americans to have both been on a winning America’s Cup crew (1988) and win an Olympic medal in sailing (1988, 1992). He was one of eight people inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2017.

Smyth’s sailing resume includes winning the Worrell 1000, a grueling 1000-mile distance race which he sailed in a record 75 hours, and a role as a consultant on two Hollywood films, sailing a trimaran for Kevin Costner in "Water World" and a catamaran for Pierce Brosnan in "The Thomas Crown Affair".

In 2010, Smyth was a commentator on America’s Cup for ESPN, and in 2016 covered the Rio Olympic Games for NBC.

The Everglades Challenge is an unsupported, adventure race. The distance is roughly 300 nautical miles with a time limit of eight days or less.

Smyth has finished six such challenges and set a Class 5 sailboat record during last year's race, finishing the 300-mile course in three days, 10 hours and 9 minutes. Only about 40 percent of starters are able to finish, according to race literature.

Unsupported means that there are no safety boats or support crews to help during the race and participants are not allowed to have a support crew follow or meet during the race. It is OK to have family or friends at official checkpoints, but they cannot provide anything other than emotional support.  

 
This article was reported by News-Press  /  Breaking News Reporter - Michael Braun

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