The 37-foot Aegean, carrying a crew of four, was reported missing Saturday during a 125-mile Newport Beach, Calif. to Ensenada, Mexico yacht race, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
The Newport Ocean Sailing Association, the race organizer, said the accident occurred late 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 37-foot vessel," association spokesman Rich Roberts said in a news release early Sunday.
Race officials believe there are few other possibilities for what caused the accident, Roberts later told The Associated Press, speaking by phone from Ensenada.
He said details were still scarce but it was possible that if the smaller boat was bobbing around in light wind, the crew might not have been able to get out of the way of a larger ship, perhaps a freighter. The race goes through shipping lanes and it's possible for a large ship to hit a sailboat and not even know it, especially at night, he said.