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Tragedy During the Race to Mackinac

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Jul 18, 2011 3:45PM

The 103rd 103rd Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac kicked off on Saturday, with over 350 sailboats setting sail on the 333-mile journey across Lake Michigan to cross the finish line on Mackinac Island. Unfortunately, two sailors won't be returning home after their boat sank overnight.

Around 11:40 p.m. last night, the Coast Guard received a distress call after the boat WingNuts capsized during a storm. Crew aboard the boat Sociable, who had notified the Coast Guard of the emergency, then rescued six of 35-foot WingNuts' crew. After a search that included ships and helicopters, the bodies of the two missing sailors were recovered this morning. Identities of the sailors who perished were not released pending notification of their families.

While the loss of two sailors pales to anything else that might have gone wrong, the Mac has also been dealing with a severe systems failure of IonEarth, the tracking software that allows for the tracking of boats during the race. We've become accustomed to tracking our friends aboard Vayu and Defiance, so were surprised when the tracking software was down most of the weekend. The Chicago Yacht Club clarified the issue on their website, explaining that the tracking will be unavailable for the duration.

While fun for fans to see boats' progress, the tracking also helps the race staff monitor how the race is going as well and estimate when the various fleets are likely to complete the course. The outage of the online GPS tracking has required a return to the old fashioned radio updates to get some sense of the boats' progress. While they know that Windquest finished first. The 86-foot canting keeler, owned by brothers Dick and Doug DeVos, crossed shortly before 6:00 p.m. Sunday to complete the race in a swift 27:35:21.

Overall honors won't be known for a while, however, since the race is handicapped due to the performance differences of different styles and sized of sailboat. By Monday morning, about 60 boats had finished. To those still on the water, good luck and stay safe.