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3 dead, 1 missing in accident during Newport-Ensenada sailing race

A 37-foot sailboat apparently collided with a much larger vessel during the annual sailing race from Newport Beach, Calif., to Ensenada, Mexico, killing three crew members and leaving one missing, a sailing association said early on Sunday. 

"An investigation was continuing, but it appeared the damage was not inflicted by an explosion but by a collision with a ship much larger than the 37-foot vessel,"  Newport Ocean Sailing Association spokesman Rich Roberts said in a statement.

The sailboat Aegean had been reported missing Saturday morning near the Coronado Islands, just south of the border, Coast Guard spokesman Henry G. Dunphy said in a news release.

"The first indication of the incident was at 1:30 a.m. Saturday when the boat's image vanished from the online race tracking system in place for the race. A Coast Guard search was launched that led to discovery of the boat's wreckage, including the rear transom with the boat's name on it," Roberts said.

Dunphy said vessels near the Coronados reported seeing debris at about 10 a.m. and three sailors were found dead in the afternoon. One body was recovered by a Coast Guard helicopter and two others by a civilian crew.

Dunphy said race officials reported the Aegean missing about 11:40 a.m. The Associated Press reported that the Aegean's home port was Redondo Beach. The names of the crew were not released.

The 125-mile race, organized by the Newport Ocean Sailing Association, began at 11 a.m. Friday off the Balboa Pier in Newport Beach. The race crosses heavy shipping lanes off San Diego, and only a relative few boats can finish before darkness the first night.

More than 200 boats had entered the race as of Wednesday, though it was unclear how many started.

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Some boats can finish the race in less than 12 hours, but others can take up to two days.

The incident comes two weeks after an accident during a race from San Francisco to the Farallon Islands left five sailors dead.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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