Usually, the sailboat race from Chicago's Navy Pier to Mackinac Island goes off without a hitch--but a storm that hit Lake Michigan during the 103rd annual race over the weekend ended in tragedy.
The bodies of two boaters were recovered early Monday, about eight hours after their boat, Wingnuts, capsized. Six other members of the Wingnuts crew were rescued from the water. Race veterans Mark Morley, 51, and Suzanne Bickel, 41, were killed in the incident.
Greg Alm, who wore a helmet camera while participating in the race, was aboard the J109 Realt Na Mara when the storm hit, according to NBC Chicago. His boat stopped near the capsized vessel as another vessel, Sociable, tried rescuing the Wingnuts crew.
Alm posted edited footage of the deadly storm on YouTube, along with a description of the terrifying night:
...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.
On their website, race organizers said the tracking system racers and fans use to follow the competition online failed, and that the Coast Guard was closely monitoring the fleet and reporting positional information to race officials.
The tracking system's failure did not hinder or delay rescue efforts, and the Coast Guard said in a news release that a private company that monitors locator beacons notified it that two beacons aboard WingNuts had been activated.
WATCH footage from the deadly race here: