Video: USCG Rescues Three After Capsizings in Strait of Juan de Fuca

Image courtesy USCG

Published Jun 14, 2022 2:20 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued three sailors in the Strait of Juan de Fuca after two competing sailboats capsized in rough conditions. 

The boats were under way in a larger flotilla for the annual Race to Alaska, and they were transiting the easternmost stretch of the strait from Port Townsend to Victoria. A gale warning and small craft advisory were in effect, and organizers described the conditions as "between seasick and dangerous" before departure. Water temperature in the strait was in the range of 50 degrees F, as is typical for the time of year.  

Four people went into the water as a result of the capsizings, and multiple Coast Guard crews and good samaritans responded. One was picked up by a standby safety boat, and three were rescued by the USCG, including two who were hoisted out of the water by helicopter. A video of the rescue shows one survivor with clear symptoms of hypothermia. 

Another trimaran was dismasted in the rough conditions but made it safely back to Port Townsend. Others, including rowers in small craft, hauled out at Dungeness Spit or Protection Island on the south side of the strait for shelter.

The race organizers extended the allowable timeline for the first leg of the competition by 24 hours, allowing some prudent participants to wait out the rough conditions or take a sheltered but longer route.

The Race to Alaska is a long-distance competition for non-motorized vessels between Port Townsend and Ketchikan, with portages and alternate routes allowed. This year's edition removes a waypoint at Seymour Narrows, allowing well-equipped sailors the option to work their way around the exposed west coast of Vancouver Island without an engine. The event has the backing of prominent corporate and government sponsors.