News State Western Australia News Sailing community left reeling after double fatality

Sailing community left reeling after double fatality

Veteran Sydney-Hobart racer Finistere took two men to their deaths off the WA coast. Photo: Royal Freshwater Yacht Club
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Police have released the name of both of the sailors who died when a yacht overturned during a race off the West Australian coast, south of Perth, on Friday night.

Paul Charles Owens, 60, was one of six people onboard the yacht Finistere, which was competing in the Bunbury and Return Ocean Race when it struck trouble.

Five of them, including Mr Owens, were pulled onboard other yachts, but the Bull Creek man did not survive.

The body of the sixth sailor, Rob Thomas, in his 70s, was discovered on Saturday afternoon during an extensive air and sea search.

Finistere was about 11 nautical miles south-west of Mandurah when it got into difficulty.

It is believed there was a problem with the boat’s keel.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said it received a distress signal shortly before midnight on Friday.

It is believed the yacht was being skippered by its owner Rob Thomas.

‘It’s something we don’t expect’

Dean McAullay, the commodore of Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club, which organised the event, said the incident brought back painful memories for the sailing community.

“Our minds go back to 1998 for the Sydney to Hobart race where there was tragic loss of life there as well,” he said.

Rob Thomas
Police said the man sailor who died in the accident was sailor Rob Thomas. Photo: Fremantle Sailing Club

“A serious incident like this is something we don’t expect.

“We have our plans in place to be able to manage these things as best we can and we hope to learn from these things to make it better for the future.

“Our sport is resilient, but it’s not without risks and people are aware of those risks.”

Police are preparing a report on the incident for the coroner.

The Bunbury and Return Ocean Race is an annual event organised by the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club.

The 170-nautical-mile open-water race started in Fremantle late on Friday afternoon, with the course taking vessels down to Bunbury before returning to Fremantle.