Home Dispatches VIDEO: Tragedy in Chi-Mac

VIDEO: Tragedy in Chi-Mac

The sailing community will come together today to mourn the loss of two competitors who died in a violent storm during the annual Race to Mackinac, which runs from Chicago’s Monroe Harbor to Mackinac Island in Michigan.


"It's the first fatality in the history of the race, and this is the 103rd," Chicago Yacht Club communications manager Rachelle Treiber says. "It's a really tight-knit community. But we still have sailors coming in. Today is our Sailor Celebration, so that's when everyone will really stop and think about what has happened. But we haven't spoken to many people because they're still coming in."

Click play to watch an Associated Press report on the capsize.

Dim lights

Click play to listen to the Chicago Yacht Club's statement Tuesday on the tragedy.


The two lost sailors are WingNuts skipper Mark Morley, 51, and Suzanne Bickel, 41, both from Saginaw, Mich., according to the Coast Guard. The crew of the competing sailboat Sociable recovered the other six crewmembers from WingNuts, the 35-footer that capsized. The survivors were Christopher Cummings, 16; John Dent, 50; Stan Dent, 51; Peter Morley, 47; Stewart Morley, 15; and Lee Purcell, 46.


"The crew of Sociable did a commendable job rescuing the six sailors," says Petty Officer 3rd Class George Degener, a public affairs specialist for the Ninth Coast Guard District in Cleveland. "They were able to get on scene quickly and help assist the sailors."


The accident occurred in 4- to 6-foot seas and 50-mph winds just after midnight Sunday about 13 nautical miles northwest of Charlevoix, Mich., and 10 miles east of South Fox Island, Degener says. The crew of Sociable notified the Coast Guard about the capsizing at 12:40 a.m. Monday. The two sailors who died were found about eight hours later by rescue divers, Degener says.

Comments (5) Comments are closed
5 Saturday, 23 July 2011 11:35
Jean André
I am sad with the loss of the lives of fellow sailors.
At this point there is no reason to try and speculate if there were lifejackets involved or the size of a boat a 35 foot is a big boat and is more than capable of crossing a Lake or an ocean. As the Mini-Transat proved many times over.
It is a race and people go to extremes.
It is a tragedy indeed and so far my heart goes to friends and family.
All my best wishes
Capt. Jean André
4 Friday, 22 July 2011 13:09
Captain Steve
This boat does not have positive stability and shouldn't be allowed in this type of race.
3 Wednesday, 20 July 2011 14:38
I'm trying to fathom how a 35 foot sailboat could capsize in 4 to 6 foot seas even in fresh water. Having beenin seas much worse than what was described in the same size and even smaller boats it's a puzzle. There's got to be more to this tragedy than covered thus far.
2 Tuesday, 19 July 2011 17:45
Chris Beaudry
Were all crew members wearing lifejackets at the time of the incident as is required by the race requirements (sunset to sunrise)?
1 Tuesday, 19 July 2011 17:33
Chris Beaudry
Why was this 35 foot open boat even allowed to participate in an overnight distance race???
fbtwit yt

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