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Boats run aground; death on another vessel

A sailboat owned by a Groton man ran aground Saturday afternoon during a race marred by a fatality aboard another boat.

The incidents occurred during a race sponsored by the Fishers Island Yacht Club.

In an unrelated incident, the Coast Guard rescued four people Saturday night from a boat, a 28-foot O'Day, that ran aground southwest of Ram Island at the mouth of the Mystic River.

Earlier, Greg Cypherd, chief of the Fishers Island Fire Department, confirmed that a fatality had occurred involving "someone that was sailing" - apparently during the Fishers Island race - but refused to provide any other information.

Police in Southold, Long Island, referred questions to New York State Police, who had provided no information late Saturday night.

During the race, the 29-foot vessel Showdown ran aground on South Dumpling Island, where it was to remain overnight, according to Lt.j.g. John Vasilarakis, command duty officer of Coast Guard Sector Long Island in New Haven.

None of the 10 crewmen aboard Showdown were harmed, Vasilarakis said Saturday night.

Matt Lettrich of Noank and Ted Parker of Mystic, who had set out to watch the race in Parker's 20-foot boat, spotted the Showdown and ended up ferrying the crippled vessel's crew back to Mystic. In photographs taken by Lettrich, the Showdown appears to be seriously damaged.

Calls placed to the Groton home of the Showdown's owner, Bijan Rasadi, went unanswered.

"We saw Showdown's spinnaker in a somewhat ugly configuration and I said, 'Gee, they're stuck, they're going to hit the rocks,' and they did," Lettrich said in a phone interview Saturday night. "We took (the crew) up the Mystic (River), but it was too rough to move the boat."

A commercial towing vessel arrived at the scene shortly after the grounding, as did a Coast Guard boat dispatched from New London, according to Vasilarakis.

The Coast Guard received a call about the grounding shortly after 2 p.m., Vasilarakis said. The wind at the time was 23 knots, gusting to 30 knots, he said.

Lettrich, who races regularly as a member of the Mystic River Mudheads Sailing Association, said Saturday's wind would have made for "an exciting race." He said the Mudheads ran the race, which the Fishers Island Yacht Club sponsored.

Because of the strong winds, the race, which was to have been sailed around Fishers Island, was limited to the waters between Fishers Island and Connecticut's coast, Lettrich said.

In the Mystic grounding, the Coast Guard dispatched two boats — a 41-footer and a 25-footer — as well as a helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, according to Pete Winters, a civilian search and rescue controller at Coast Guard Sector Long Island.

The helicopter turned around en route to the scene after the 25-foot boat was able to maneuver alongside the grounded boat and transfer those onboard, Winters said.

The boat's owner had indicated the boat's keel was about to break off, in which case those on board planned to jump off and swim to Ram Island, Winters said.

"I didn't want that to happen, so we sent everything we had," he said.

No other details were available late Saturday night, including the names on board the grounded boat. Winters said the boat was out of New London.

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