BENSON, John (c. 1943-1982), one of two crew lost aboard Bad Sneakers, a Moore 24 sailboat, during the April 1982 race to the Farallon Islands sponsored by the St. Francis Yacht Club of San Francisco. Benson was from Ireland. He lived in Alameda, CA and had a daughter named Heidi. John was a member of the Encinal Yacht Club. He died during a sailboat race to the Farallon Islands sponsored by the St. Francis Yacht Club. A sudden storm came up during the race and he and the boat he was on, Bad Sneakers, were never found. Benson was 39 years old. There is a memorial plaque to John Benson at the Encinal Yacht Club.
The other person aboard Bad Sneakers was Gregory Maimone, 38, of Castro Valley. He too was never found. Twenty sailors have died in the St. Francis Yacht Club's Double Handed Farallones Race.
In the News~
April 12, 1982 [Santa Cruz Sentinel]: “Coast Guard airplanes continued the search today for four persons missing at sea aboard two sailboats after they failed to return Saturday from a race during a storm that killed two other sailors in northern California waters. The storm ambushed the 127 sailboats in the Bay Area Multi-Hull Association's race from San Francisco around the Farallon Islands, forcing three boats to run aground, capsizing a fourth and damaging three others. Still missing are the 24-foot Bad Sneakers, a Santa Cruz built Moore 24, and the 22-foot Sweet Omega. The only findings are the Omega's life raft, a life jacket, life ring and strobe light, reported the Coast Guard. Two Santa Cruz berthed sailboats, the Octavia and the Chasch Mer played roles in the high drama and tragedy of the weekend's double-handed Farallon Islands race. The Octavia, skippered by Stewart Kett of Watsonville and crewed by Neil Gillien of Santa Cruz, came to the rescue of the capsized catamaran Catawampus when the latter went bottoms-up in the high seas. The same rolling seas drove the Chasch Mer. also like the Octavia, a Santa Cruz 50, to a win and a course record of seven hours in the single-hull class. Skipper was Randy Parker of Los Gatos, who is former commodore of the Santa Cruz Yacht Club, and it was crewed by Dee Smith of Alameda. Missing in the Omega are janice White and Larry Ohs, both of Portland, Ore., and in the Bad Sneakers, Gregory Maimone of Castro Valley and his crew member who was identified only as "Benson" by the Coast Guard. Two men aboard the 35-foot Kuhushan, which was not in the race, died after their boat collided Saturday night in storm-tossed seas with a freighter anchored off the coast of Bolinas, north of San Francisco. One man managed to swim ashore...”
April 13, 1982 [Washington Post]: “Fragments of a green hull believed to be one of two sailboats missing from a wind-whipped yacht race were spotted yesterday on two beaches, the Coast Guard said. Aircraft have been searching the choppy waters since fierce winds disrupted a race from here to the Farallon Islands on Saturday. Spotter planes reported no sign of the four people aboard the Sweet Omega and the Bad Sneakers. But 10-foot-long pieces of a hull spotted at midday on two beaches were "almost assuredly" from the Sweet Omega, Coast Guard master chief Dave Cipra said. On Sunday, a life ring, raft and life jacket from one of the boats was found floating off Point Reyes, but there was no sign of survivors. An unexpected gale ambushed 127 boats in Saturday's annual race, capsizing one boat and forcing four others aground. It was the latest in a series of storms that have given Northern California its wettest winter in nearly a century. Seven inches of rain and gale winds over the weekend caused mudslides and flooding and killed at least four persons--including two on another boat off San Francisco that was not involved in the race.”
April 16, 1982 [Oregonian]: “Search ends for 4 sailors. San Francisco (AP) – The Coast Guard ended Thursday its formal search for four sailors who disappeared when high winds disrupted a weekend yacht race to the Farallon Islands. Petty Officer Don Mincher said air searches had failed to turn up new clues to the whereabouts of the two boats since a piece of the 22-foot Sweet Omega was found Monday near Point Reyes, about 20 miles north of here. “We will continue to look for them on routine patrols,” Mincher said. The Sweet Omega was carrying Janice White, 31, and Larry Ohs [1953-1982], both from Portland. The other boat, Bad Sneakers, carried Gregory Maimone, 38, of Castro Valley, and John Benson, 39, of Moraga.”
April 19, 1982 [UPI]: “SAN FRANCISCO -- The Coast Guard, announcing that a jagged piece of gray fiberglass found washed up on a Fort Cronkhite beach was 'very likely' from the Alameda yacht Bad Sneakers, suspended its search for the missing boat. The Bad Sneakers was one of two boats to vanish from the annual Doublehanded Farallon Islands race April 11. Wreckage from the Sweet Omega, manned by two crew members from Portland, Ore., was found washed ashore in Marin County Tuesday. The Bad Sneakers crew, Gregory Maimone of Castro Valley and John Benson of Moraga, are also missing and believed lost. Buffeted by heavy winds, the regatta turned into a disaster with only 52 of the 127 entries finishing the 57-mile, two-day race around the Farallon Islands. When a member of the Corinthian Yacht Club found the 18-by-24 inch shard of gray fiberglass at Fort Cronkhite last Thursday, the Coast Guard called the Bad Sneakers manufacturer and identified the piece as a part of the yacht's main deck. A Coast Guard spokesman said Sunday that the 'active search' for the vessel and its two crewmen had been called off.”