The Coast Guard later reported (quoted in the Virginian Pilot) that conditions at the scene involved 30-knot winds. The forecast
wave height for that area was 5 to 6 meters.
While you're right that 20-30 knots winds aren't necessarily a show-stopper (hey, I left Maine
last summer in 35-40 knot winds in Penobscot Bay and beyond), in this particular area they can be absolutely brutal. Winds of any substantial speed blowing against the north-running Gulf Stream
create extremely steep and very nasty wave patterns.
I don't know anything about the boat or these sailors, but have put out some feelers here as my boat is also based in Washington
Glad they made it after all, but sounds like they lost