It is with heavy hearts that we at 48° North pass along the news of a fatality at Race Week Anacortes on June 22. Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and crew mates of Greg Mueller. Sailing aboard the J/120 With Grace, Mueller fell overboard, was recovered, and later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Here’s the full press release from Race Week organizers about the incident:

ANACORTES, Washington, June 24, 2021 – Whidbey Island Race Week LLC, the Organizing Authority of Race Week PNW Anacortes announces the news of a tragic accident that occurred on the racecourse on Tuesday afternoon, June 22, 2021. A crew member fell overboard while racing, and later died, despite the efforts of many, including the crew on board the sailing vessel, the sailing vessels nearby who saw the accident occur, and the rapid response and action of the Race Committee. The Skagit County Office of the Coroner will release a cause of death when all autopsy results have been considered.

It is not clear at this time what caused the crew member, who was an experienced sailor and who was wearing a PFD, to fall overboard during a downwind leg of the race. Some on board reported seeing the crew member leaning over and trying to untangle lines around his feet prior to the fall. Due to the entanglement of lines, the crew member remained connected to the sailing vessel at all times, and was in the water for approximately 10 minutes before being brought back on deck. At this time, the crew was unconscious, and was administered CPR, but never recovered.

“As the Organizing Authority of Race Week, I am immensely proud of the rapid response that was directed at the man overboard incident. It is still not clear if the decedent suffered a medical event prior to the fall, or not. We are all deeply saddened to have lost a fellow racer, and my condolences go out to the crew’s family, friends, and fellow racing comrades.” Schelleen Rathkopf, Organizing Authority and Event Producer, Race Week PNW Anacortes

There will be many questions in the days ahead about how accidents like this one can be avoided. As Race Week is governed by the rules as defined in The Racing Rules of Sailing, that include safety protocols, competitors participate in the regatta entirely at their own risk. The safety of a boat, and its crew is the sole responsibility of the skipper, who ensures that the boat is fully sound, thoroughly seaworthy, and manned by an experienced and physically able crew.

Race Week, and its constituents, will continue to explore ways to make course safety a priority.

About Race Week

The mission of Race Week is to grow the sport of sailboat racing in the Pacific Northwest region by providing the most qualified race management team in a venue that can offer compelling buoy and distance racing possibilities.