Leslie Rudolph said her husband was competing in the race for the third time with the Aegean's skipper, Theo Mavromatis of Redondo Beach.
Mavromatis was a sailor his entire life and did not appear to have ever faced scrutiny about safety, said Conrad Thieme of Marina Sailing, which rented the yacht on his behalf. He previously won the race in his category.
"Based on his sailing resume, this whole occurrence is really surprising," Thieme said.
The deaths are the first fatalities in the race's 65 years. The race attracted 675 boats at its peak in 1983 before falling on hard times several years ago amid fears of Mexico's drug-fueled violence.
Participation has picked up recently, reaching 213 boats this year. The race attracts sailors of all skills, including some who are new to long distances.
The Aegean competed in one of the lower categories, which allows participants to use their motors when winds drop to a certain level.
The deaths came two weeks after five sailors died in the waters off Northern California when their 38-foot yacht was hit by powerful waves, smashed into rocks and capsized during a race.
The accident near the Farallon Islands, about 27 miles west of San Francisco, prompted the Coast Guard's temporary suspension of races outside San Francisco Bay. The Guard said the suspension will allow it and the offshore racing community to study the accident and race procedures to determine whether changes are needed to improve safety.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat in San Diego, Christopher Weber and Daisy Nguyen in Los Angeles, and Jason Dearen in San Francisco.
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