Cup crewman lost overboard

August 07, 1994|By Nancy Noyes | Nancy Noyes,Special to The Sun

The 21st annual Governors Cup race from Annapolis to St. Mary's City was marred by tragedy Friday evening when a crewman was struck in the head by his boat's boom and knocked overboard. The crewman is still missing.

The accident, the first of its kind in recent memory, occurred aboard the 40-foot sloop Electra shortly before sundown near Poplar Island. The race had begun at 6 p.m.

The crewman, Stephen Bickell, 47, of Annapolis, an experienced and well-known local sailor who skippered his own boat for many years while also crewing for others, reportedly was not wearing a life jacket. Department of Natural Resources Police spokesman Nancy Howard said Bickell still is considered missing.

The boat is owned by Annapolis Yacht Club member Andy Wilson, of Manassas, Va.

Howard said the Electra crew threw a life jacket to Bickell, but did not see him again.

They radioed the Annapolis Coast Guard station at Thomas Point at 7:45 p.m. Friday, and Coast Guard vessels were dispatched to the scene, along with a DNR vessel and a Maryland State Police helicopter.

In deteriorating weather, with waves climbing as high as four feet, the search continued until midnight. It resumed yesterday morning at 8 a.m. before being suspended at 8 p.m.

Howard said the DNR would continue searching today.

Winds at the start of the 70-mile overnight race, in which 236 boats in 10 classes took part, were out of the north, gusting to 20 knots; Coast Guard reports indicated that no small craft advisory was in effect, although there was a thunderstorm watch.

No other distress calls were reported by the Coast Guard, but 21 boats dropped out of the race before the pre-dawn finish at St. Mary's City.

The event's premier award, the Joseph Waldschmitt Trophy for best in fleet, was given to Daniel Miller of Baltimore, who sailed his Pearson 30 Knotbobs to victory in PHRF C, judged the most competitive class because that division had the smallest corrected time differential between first- and fifth-place finishers.

First over the finish line, not long after midnight, with an elapsed time of 6:18:15, was Jim Muldoon of Washington, D.C., and the crew on his Santa Cruz 70 Donnybrook, breaking his record of 6:21:30, set last year. Muldoon subsequently was disqualified from the race for failure to display the proper class identification flags.

The annual Governors Cup race is sponsored by the Southern Maryland Sailing Association and the St. Mary's River Yacht Club, under guidelines of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association.

St. Mary's College serves as host of the event.

The event drew criticism in recent years when eligibility standards for acceptable entries, requiring a relatively minimal level of experience in overnight racing, were relaxed in an effort to promote more entries.

St. Mary's College spokesman Norine Rowe said it was her understanding that Wilson and his crew aboard Electra would have qualified under the previously existing experience requirements.

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