A yacht involved in a race off the coast of California and Mexico apparently collided at night with a much larger vessel, leaving three crew members dead and one missing.
The 37-foot Aegean and its crew of four were reported missing on Saturday during a 125-mile race from Newport, California, to Ensenada, Mexico.
Organisers at the Newport Ocean Sailing Association said the accident occurred late on Friday or early Saturday several miles off the coast near the ocean border of the two countries.
"It appeared the damage was not inflicted by an explosion but by a collision with a ship much larger than the 37ft vessel," said Rich Roberts, a spokesman for the association.
Mr Roberts said details were still scarce but it was possible that the yacht was bobbing around in light winds and the crew were not able to get out of the way of a larger ship, perhaps a cargo vessel.
The race goes through shipping lanes and it is possible for a large ship to hit a sailing boat and not even know it, especially at night, he added.
A Coast Guard search turned up wreckage, including the rear transom with the Aegean's name on it. Three crew members were found dead and a search was under way yesterday for the fourth. Coast Guard boats and two aircraft as well as Mexican navy and civilian vessels were involved.
The deaths come two weeks after five sailors died in the waters off Northern California when their 38ft yacht was hit by powerful waves, smashed into rocks and capsized during a race. Three sailors survived the wreck.