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Tragedy Strikes Chi Mac

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  • Tragedy Strikes Chi Mac

    In a July 2010 photo, the sailboat WingNuts participates in the 2010 Little Traverse Regatta, on Little Traverse Bay in Harbor Springs, Mich. Boats and a helicopter searched northern Lake Michigan on Monday for two people who went missing when their sailboat Wingnuts capsized during the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac race, the Coast Guard said. Eight people aboard Wingnuts went into the water, and six were recovered, according to the Coast Guard. / ASSOCIATED PRESS/News-Review, G. Randall Goss

    A Coast Guard dive team recovered two missing crew members that were lost during the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac race. They were found unresponsive in northern Lake Michigan at about 9 a.m. today, Coast Guard Petty Officer George Degener said.

    The crew of a competing boat, Sociable, notified the Coast Guard at 12:40 a.m. today that the 35-foot sailboat WingNuts capsized near the Fox islands, west of Charlevoix, during the Chicago Yacht Club's annual Race to Mackinac, Degener said.

    The Sociable crew said eight people aboard WingNuts went into the water, and that they recovered six of the them alive early today, according to the Coast Guard. All six were wearing life preservers, and they were taken to the Coast Guard station in Charlevoix for evaluation, the agency said.

    Authorities did not release the names of the missing crew members. WingNuts is based in Saginaw, and seven of the eight crewmembers registered for the race are from Michigan — including three from Midland, two from Saginaw, one from Ann Arbor and one from Grandville, according to the race's website. One of the crewmembers listed is from Chicago.

    The Coast Guard located the overturned boat and began searching nearby.

    A 41-foot boat from Coast Guard Station Charlevoix, a helicopter from Air Station Traverse City and the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw were involved in the search. The Coast Guard said 4- to 6-foot waves were reported, and air and water temperatures were in the low 70s.

    According to the race website, 355 boats and roughly 3,500 crew members took part in this year's race, which starts at Chicago's Navy Pier and finishes off of Mackinac Island, near where lakes Michigan and Huron meet. The first race was held in 1898, and organizers began holding it every year starting in 1921. This year's race is the 103rd running.

    Full Article ~It's not the size of the website, it's how you use it! ~

  • #2
    Two bodies were pulled from the water in northern Lake Michigan this morning after a sailboat participating in the Chicago Yacht Club's Race to Mackinac capsized in a storm near Fox Island. Six of the crew earlier had been rescued by another vessel.

    The names of the two dead sailors were not released by the Coast Guard. Officials could not recall any previous drowning deaths during past races.
    The sole Chicagoan on board, Lee Purcell, was safe, said his wife, Aimee, who had awakened early Monday morning to go meet her husband and his sailing crew in Mackinac, when her husband called with the devastating news.

    Their boat, he said, had capsized during a storm over the water and two people on board had died.

    "My heart sank," said Purcell, who was driving to meet her husband.

    "I'm worried about the other families."

    This was Lee Purcell's third Mackinac race with the owners of WingNuts," a group of childhood friends from Michigan, Aimee Purcell said.

    "The four owners of the boat have been friends since birth," Purcell said. "They all grew up together and have sailed together since they were tots."

    Purcell, who is an architect, met them years ago while doing business in Detroit, Purcell said.

    Purcell said the owners named the boat after its build and themselves.

    "Their boat is a Kiwi 35, which has fold-out wings on it," Purcell said. "And they're all a little nuts."

    The Coast Guard was notified at 11:40 p.m. CDT Sunday by radio by crew members from the sailing vessel Sociable, that the 35-foot WingNuts had capsized, sending eight people into the water.

    Crew aboard the Sociable rescued six, the Coast Guard said. The bodies of the two missing boaters were recovered by divers around 8:45 a.m. today.

    WingNuts said out of Saginaw, Mich. The crew, with the exception of Purcell, all hailed from Michigan.

    The search for the missing boaters was undertaken by a 41-foot utility boat from the Coast Guard station in Chalevoix, Mich., an MH-65C Dolphin rescue helicopter from the Traverse City, Mich., air station and the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw.

    Stormy weather in the area was believed to have been responsible for the 4- to 6-foot waves that may have contributed to capsizing the boat, according to Petty Officer 3rd Class George Degener.

    The father of a teen rescued after the boat capsized says his son and crewmates were prepared for a storm but sudden strong winds were impossible to overcome.

    Chip Cummings told The Grand Rapids Press and WWJ-AM that his 16-year-old son C.J., of Grandville, was one of the six rescued from WingNuts.

    Chip Cummings said his son was exhausted but all right. The elder Cummings said his son and others pressed alert mechanisms on their life vests that signaled trouble and sent a GPS alert to the Coast Guard.

    The water temperature at the time of the accident was in the low 70s, and Degener had expressed hope the missing crew members could safely stay in the water for hours due to the warm temperatures.

    The Chicago-Mackinac race covers 333 miles from just off Navy Pier to Mackinac Island in Michigan. It is the oldest annual freshwater race in the world, first held in 1898.

    This year, 355 boats with approximately 3,500 crew members were participating.

    Chicago Tribune Coverage ~It's not the size of the website, it's how you use it! ~


    • #3
      What a tragic event, thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and family members


      • #4
        Very sad news indeed. Unfamiliar with Great Lakes weather patterns, do they get storms like the one which occoured often in summer months?


        • #5
          Mark and Suzanne were wonderful people. They will be missed.

          IOR: Yes, storms like this occur often on the Great Lakes. The Lakes quickly build large waves with a short period and the wind can quickly become violent and unpredictable. Fortunatley these storms are almost always over very quickly. Long lasting storms like the White Hurricane of 1913 are extremely rare, but very deadly.
          Whizzo Butter: "Absolutely indistinguishable from a dead crab."


          • #6
            Pointing like a traffic cop, footin like a track star.


            • #7
              the mid-latitudes are the hardest weather patterns to predict in the world. Because the jet-stream migrates so much over the area around michigan, pressure fronts can move in very strange ways. About 1-3 times in the summer I would say that we have a storm that produces heavy winds. The biggest problem in the great lakes is that the air can be sustaining around 12kts and then you could get blasted by 40+ kts without warning and before you feel a drop of rain. We had a night race last year where something similar happened. We were watching the storm come on the GPS with XM weather but had no idea the severity. Next thing we know the boat about 10 lengths to windward wipes out hard and we had just enough time to yell hold on before it hit us.


              • #8
                Very tough news. My thoughts are with their family, crewmates, and Saginaw Bay race community.


                • #9
                  Condolences to all involved. A sad day for sailing.


                  • #10
                    It was a pretty nasty storm. We had sustained boat speed of 15 knots for about an hour with just the 3 and main. Waves and bow wake kept washing to crew off the rail. Visibility was next to zero and the rain stung hitting your face. Our wind instruments were not working but we guessed based on past experiences that we saw winds around 50kts. We had the chute up until it hit. It was a rather intense time to say the least. We heard a man overboard earlier in the day but he was recovered. Sorry that there was life lost on wing nuts.


                    • #11
                      PS I took some video earlier in the day of us sailing at 14 kts with the A kite. I will try to post it. One of the guys on our boat took video as the storm was moving in of the lightning. When I get that I will post. For the first time during a storm I was able to "smell" the lightning....was trying hard not to hold on to metal.


                      • #12

                        Intense footage from the storm that hit the 2011 Race to Mackinac
                        via a helmet cam on J-109 Realt Na Mara.

                        I suspect this is what Kris O was referring to.


                        Here's edited footage shot from a helmet camera aboard the J109 Realt Na Mara during the 2011 Chicago to Mackinac Race in 50-60+ knots. The worst of the storm hit just after midnight which made bolts of lightning our only light source. The evening's weather reports indicated winds were not expected to exceed 30 knots. As the wind built, our tack line exploded; we were knocked down immediately and stayed horizontal from winds of 54 knots for about 15 minutes. Shortly after being knocked down, with no steerage, lightning flashed and another boat, just to weather, without sails was planing right towards us. Thankfully, they managed to alter course and avoid a collision. Once the winds calmed a bit, lights shined on our boat followed by the release of an emergency flare. We approached the vessel we now think was the Sociable who was first at the scene of the capsized WingNuts. They told us there were 8 people in the water. We began searching the area immediately. In a short period of time, more than a dozen boats were at the site; and, after about 45 minutes, the rescue helicopter joined the search as well. We received word that 6 of the 8 crew were rescued. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those who were lost.
               ~It's not the size of the website, it's how you use it! ~


                        • #13
                          Downright haunting imagery. Had no idea the Great Lakes could be so violent in the middle of summer.

                          Thanks for sharing, condolences to those affected by what should be a joyous time.


                          • #14
                            That was not the video I was referring to however I can relate....there were many times, sitting on the rail I was looking down at the mast. We got our chute down just before the roll cloud hit but still in the stuffing and clean-up. There were times that the whole "high side" was under water and you had to check after the wave if your rail partner was still there. I've sent a message to the guy who took the video before the storm hit and asked him to post.


                            • #15
                              Are you going to keep us in the dark or tell us about the whole race?