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Report states an inadequate lookout contributed to yacht crash

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NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- An inadequate lookout probably played a key role in causing a yacht to crash into an island during a California-to-Mexico yacht race, killing all four people aboard, a report concluded.

The Aegean likely was on autopilot when it sailed past a GPS waypoint and smashed into the tip of North Coronado Island off the Mexican coast in the pre-dawn darkness of April 28, according to a report released Tuesday by US Sailing, yacht racing's national governing organization.

The 37-foot vessel was taking part in the 125-mile Newport-to-Ensenada race when it ran aground. The accident killed the captain, Theo Mavromatis, 49, of Redondo Beach, and crewmembers Kevin Eric Rudolph, 53, of Manhattan Beach; William Reed Johnson Jr., 57, of Torrance; and Joseph Lester Stewart, 64, of Bradenton, Fla.

They were the first deaths in the race's 65-year history.

No distress calls were made before the accident and the Aegean sped along at a consistent 7.1 knots for nearly four hours before the crash, according to the review by an independent panel organized by US Sailing.

"The panel determined that a key element of the accident was likely an inadequate lookout, and that it is likely that Aegean inadvertently motored beyond a waypoint set before North Coronado Island," the report concluded.

That waypoint would have been the place where the captain would have decided on which side of the island to pass.

Coroner's reports indicated no evidence that alcohol, drugs or carbon monoxide poisoning played a role in the crash, the US Sailing report indicated.

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The vessel broke up after the collision. It was so thoroughly smashed that race officials originally believed it was destroyed in a collision with a larger ship in the middle of the night.

The report also said that two navigation lights on neighboring South Coronado Island couldn't be seen from the Aegean because they were blocked by the island chain.

The Aegean did not have an emergency radio beacon or a life raft but a partially inflated dinghy was found in the debris, the report said.

The four sailors were found without life jackets, although one was wearing a safety harness, the report said.

Among its safety recommendations, the report suggested that racers always have at least two people per watch to maintain a proper lookout, and that vessels should be equipped with audible waypoint and radar alarms.

One of the skipper's daughters, who spells her name as Anna Mavromati, criticized the US Sailing report.

"To my knowledge, they have nothing to back the claims they are making," she told the Orange County Register ( ).

The U.S. Coast Guard also investigated the accident but has not released a report.