The U. S. Coast Guard Confirmed in July that two sailors competing in the 2011 Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac lost their lives in a severe thunderstorm that crossed Lake Michigan. Wind gusts up to 52 knots were reported, with wave heights of four to six feet. The accident occurred approximately 13 nautical miles northwest of Charlevoix, Mich., and 10 miles east of South Fox Island.
The Coast Guard was notified via VHF by crewmembers of Sociable, one of the race boats, that another of the racers, WingNuts, had capsized. Five sailors were pulled from the water and one other sailor was later rescued. The six sailors were rescued by the crew of Sociable.
The two sailors that died were WingNuts skipper Mark Morley, 51, and Suzanne Bickel, 41, both from Saginaw, Mich. Morley had 44 years of sailing experience, including six Chicago to Mackinac races and 85 qualifying races. Bickel had sailed in two previous Chicago to Mackinac races, with 16 qualifying races.
Following the accident, Commodore Joseph Haas of the Chicago Yacht Club, the race’s organizer, asked U.S. Sailing to look into the cause of the tragedy to consider what lessons might be learned and to make recommendations.
At the club’s request, Gary Jobson, president of U.S. Sailing, has appointed what is being called the Independent Review Panel for the 2011 Mackinac Race.
Members of the panel include: (Chairman) Chuck Hawley, Santa Cruz, Calif.; Sheila McCurdy, Middletown, R.I.; Ralph Naranjo, Annapolis, Md.; John Rousmaniere, New York, N.Y.; and Leif Sigmond Jr., the Chicago Yacht Club’s liaison to the panel. The panel’s report will be presented in mid to late October.