As many as 25 sailboat racers and recreational sailors were rescued Sunday from Washington region waterways as a sudden and fierce cold front swept through, with winds that gusted as high as 54 mph.
No injuries were reported in the sailboat incidents, which occurred in the Potomac River near the Wilson Bridge, and in the Severn River in the Annapolis area.
As many as 22 people were pulled from the Severn — where, according to the Severn Sailing Association, a Frostbite racing event was underway, involving Laser sailboats. The boats usually are sailed by a single person.
It was not clear how many of those involved in the race in the Severn were rescued and taken aboard other vessels, as opposed to those who might have returned to shore after righting their Lasers by themselves or with help. Many agencies participated in helping the racers, and several counts were issued.
The U.S. Coast Guard said it received a report about 2:20 p.m. saying that 22 people had gone into the water. The Maryland Natural Resources police said 22 were plucked from the Severn. Their ages ranged from 16 to 70, the NRP said.
The Annapolis city fire department said half those aboard the 22 boats were rescued by emergency personnel, Good Samaritans. or representatives of local sailing groups,
In accounting for the 22 sailors, the Severn Sailing Association said all had “either sailed back to shore” or had been quickly picked up.
On its Facebook page, the sailing association said the day’s racing was affected dramatically by the cold front, as wind speeds escalated rapidly. It said they rose “from 0-5 knots to gusts over 30 knots in a matter of minutes.”
According to the Coast Guard, “wind speeds at the time of the race were sustained at 24 knots with gusts up to 30 knots.”
Sunday’s water temperature in the Chesapeake Bay was 42 degrees, said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Sara Wallace, who is chief of response in the Maryland sector of the service’s National Capital Region. For people in the water, she said, such a temperature is “extremely dangerous.”
Working in the sailors’ favor, it appeared, were factors that included proximity to shore, and protective gear that was worn. Race rules required that all participants wear either wet suits or dry suits.
In addition, they were required to wear personal flotation devices.
The whereabouts of all the boats remained uncertain Sunday night.
The Coast Guard said it helped the Anne Arundel County fire department and the sailing association by recovering overturned boats.
The association said four boats were made secure in the water for retrieval Monday. It said three others had not been secured and “were probably on their way across the bay to the Eastern Shore.”
Lasers are about 12.5 feet at the waterline. They weigh about 130 pounds, and may be seen being driven around on car tops.
Sunday’s 54 mph gust, which appeared to be one of the strongest recorded in the region, was measured at Reagan National Airport. That was a few miles upstream from where D.C. fire department spokesman Vito Maggiolo said three people were rescued from the Potomac after at least three sailboats capsized.
The front arrived about 2 p.m., causing a drastic drop in temperatures. The mercury fell from 65 degrees at 1 p.m. to 45 degrees at 3 p.m.