The families of Alan Cahill (36) and Dr Elmer Morrissey (32), the two Irish sailors feared drowned after a San Francisco yacht race, are heart-broken having been told the search for the men is being called off.

The US Coast Guard informed the families of all four missing sailors from the incident. The crew was swept overboard as their boat, Low Speed Chase, a 12-meter boat, was struck by massive waves on Saturday.

They have now confirmed that the search for the four sailors has been called off. Petty Officer Caleb Critchfield, told the Evening Herald in Dublin, that there were no plans to resume the search operation which had included up to ten planes, helicopters, and vessels.

He said, “There is a window of survivability and we searched well beyond that window.”

The Irishmen were part of an eight-person crew. The boat was owned by James Cradford (41). All crew members were wearing life vests.

They were racing around the Farallon Islands, 45 kilometers off the California coast.

The others missing were Alexis Busch (26) and Jordan Fromm (25) both from California. The other man who went over board was Marc Kasanin (46). He was found dead in the water.

Cynthia Stowe, a captain with the Coast Guard said, “The decision to suspend a search and rescue case like this is never an easy one to make. The Coast Guard extends our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the lost crewmen and the deceased. They will all be in our thoughts and prayers.”

All vessels and aircraft in the area west of San Francisco Bay are being asked to remain vigilant for the missing four crewmen, including the two Irishmen.

The boat was skippered by its owner, James Bradford (41), on Saturday. He survived the accident along with Nick Vos and Bryan Chong.

On Saturday, Bradford swung the boat around after the other crew were washed overboard. His boat was enveloped by another wave and sent to crash against the rocks of the Southeast Farallon Island.

A friend of Marc Kasanin, Chris Povio, told the San Francisco Chronicle, “These were some of the best sailors on the bay. It really makes you second-guess these races. I know a lot of people are thinking twice about racing now."

"Everything was just so intuitive for them," said Keri Spiller, a fellow sailor. "The Bay Area can be a very tricky place to sail - there's a lot of different winds, a lot of currents. But they really knew what they were doing. They just talked about it like talking about the weather.”

Both Irish families, the Cahills and Morrisseys, plan to travel to San Francisco immediately.

The Cahills are travelling to support their son’s American wife, Shannon, and her two children. Alan and Shannon married two years ago and planned to return to Ireland on vacation this summer.

Cahill, a professional sailor, emigrated a decade ago from from Killeen.

Alan Cahill's mother Noreen told the Herald, "Sailing was Alan's life -- he loved the sea and his sailing friends."

He was known as “Irish Alan” in the prestigious San Francisco Yacht Club (SFYC) the Corkman was fondly known as "Irish Alan". His mother said he adored his life in the US but insisted on keeping in touch with his family based in Cork.

She said, "He came back to Cork fairly regularly and always went to Crosshaven and Kinsale to visit friends. Everyone out there (US) and here in Cork is devastated by this. We are absolutely heartbroken.

"We have priceless memories of Alan -- he was a fantastic son. We just cannot believe what has happened."

Doctor Elmer Morrissey, a postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, was originally from Glounthaune, near Cork City, according to San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Dr Morrissey's parents, Michael and Ena, were on vacation in Spain when they received the tragic news. His sister, Kelda, was in the UK but will travel to San Francisco with her parents.

A colleague at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Spencer Dutton, said, “Elmer believed and lived the philosophy that if you are at peace, you are living in the present…Through his sailing, meditation and sports, Elmer found peace."

His friend Shanthi Sekaran said, “He was a rare and true friend, and it feels absolutely unreal and unjust that he's gone.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs is providing assistance to the families travelling to the US.

Coast Guard search for missing sailors off San FranciscoAP