Deep Trouble for Troubled Kiwi
July 24, 2013 – San Francisco
While the New Zealand
America's Cup team is basking in the glory of an unbroken string of Louis Vuitton Cup wins, one of their countrymen has been making a very different sort of headline.
As reported Monday, New Zealander David McCormick (a dual national who also holds an Irish passport) was arrested on Sunday 2.5 miles outside the Golden Gate by a heavily armed U.S. Coast Guard boarding party. He was charged in U.S. District Court yesterday with making false distress
calls, failure to heave to, and assault on a federal officer: When the boarding party moved to cuff him, he reportedly smacked one of the officers several times — always a bad idea.
McCormick's vessel Fortune was towed to a Coast Guard facility for inspection
© 2013 CBS San Francisco
The more we learn about this bizarre case, the more we wonder about McCormick's state of mind. As reported on SFGate today, at roughly 9 a.m. Sunday morning the Coast Guard received a call "from a male voice with an Australian accent saying, 'Mayday relay, mayday relay, spots overboard
, oh he’s over mate and he needs some help. He’s over, um, in the fog
somewhere in the Bay, I don’t know where, but I’m trying to search for him so if you boys got a pretty quick boat to whip over here, get over here, jiffy, cheers, buddy, thanks.'" The USCG launched a search-and-rescue helicopter in response, but found no one, and could not confirm the location of the caller.
Several hours later, however, they heard the same voice stating that the lost
shipmate had been found. Soon after, a CG patrol reportedly located McCormick aboard his boat Fortune, which was moored off the Sausalito YC. When confronted, he told the Guardsmen, "This is a peace ship and any attempt to board my vessel is an act of war." He also claimed to have firearms aboard, so the officers reportedly backed off and called for backup. While other assets were en route
, McCormick cast off and made for open ocean, apparently thinking he could outrun the Coast Guard vessels which pursued him — another bad idea.
But there's more to the story. According to Sausalito YC member
Jeff Zarwell, Fortune had been moored on one of the club's guest buoys for several days, but by Sunday morning some members had become alarmed by the captain's behavior. Saying something about an America's Cup protest, McCormick left his dinghy
oars on the club dock
— apparently on purpose — and hand-paddled out to his boat. Soon after, he was seen tossing several of his own sailbags overboard. That behavior precipitated a call to the Marin County Sheriff, but their boat was unavailable, so the Coasties were alerted. There the two accounts converge. Due to jurisdictional issues, a Sausalito policeman was also involved with the pre-escape confrontation — he arrived at the club carrying a loaded shotgun.
One thing that still remains completely unclear is the nature of McCormick's AC protest — and how dumping sailbags into the Bay could possibly strengthen his cause. No doubt we'll hear more about this embattled sailor because — based on the seriousness of the (federal) charges leveled against him — he is likely to remain in the Bay Area long after his Emirates Team New Zealand
countrymen have returned to Auckland
- latitude / andy