A Newport Beach resident and veteran sailboat racer was reported missing and his beached 24-foot sailboat discovered empty near Main Beach in the early hours of Wednesday, Aug. 1, authorities reported.
Andrew Szaz, 74, was reported missing by his wife late on the previous evening, said Laguna Beach police Lt. Jason Kravetz. He was last seen departing Dana Point Harbor alone about 1:30 p.m. the previous day by people who had seen him working on his boat, Babe, said sheriff’s department spokesman Jim Amormino.
In 2005, Szaz, then 68, was among what was described as the oldest crew to sail the Transpac, the 2,560-mile Los Angeles to Honolulu race. He served as watch captain on the Bubala, the slowest of 13 40-foot boats to finish with an elapsed time of 15 days, 21 hours.
More recently, records indicate Szaz raced among a class of seven competitors in a regatta as a member of the Dana Point Yacht Club. Szaz and his wife are listed in the club directory as members since 2010, said a current club member. The club’s commodore Dan Hodge did not return phone calls and calls to the Szaz home also went unreturned.
Under the light of a full moon in the early hours of Wednesday, a search for the missing boater by the Coast Guard and Harbor Patrol and low passes along Laguna’s coastline by a helicopter awakened some residents around 4 a.m. Laguna lifeguards, police and firefighters also searched on land, police said. The search at sea was suspended at darkness on Wednesday and resumed Thursday, said Amormino.
No evidence of foul play was discovered on board the boat, whose mast and mainsail were damaged, said Amormino, who could not say if the mast broke from running aground or an earlier mishap. The boat’s running lights were on and its motor operable, though not activated, he said. Nor did investigators find a harness, used by sailors to prevent going overboard.
The Harbor Patrol took possession of the boat and towed it to Dana Point Harbor.
Sheriff’s investigators questioned members of Dana Point’s Aventura Sailing Association, interested in obtaining surveillance footage, sailing instructor Mark Howe said. Investigators were trying to rule out if Szaz was accompanied. “It doesn’t appear to be anything suspicious,” Amormino said. “We believe he was alone.”