Facts emerge from Mackinac tragedy
Published on July 23rd, 2018
A crew member lost overboard in stormy weather on Lake Michigan during the Chicago to Mackinac Race was a triathlete who embraced life and had found his passion aboard sailboats.
Shortly after the start on July 21, Jon Santarelli, 53, fell overboard about 2:45 p.m when a large wave hit the Transpac 52 Imedi he was crewing on and his personal flotation device apparently malfunctioned, race officials said.
The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search later that day and as of late yesterday, he had not been recovered. At the time of the incident, Santarelli was leaning toward the back of the boat to make a sail adjustment when the boat was struck by a large wave, throwing him overboard.
Of the 13 other crew on board, many saw what happened. They said Santarelli’s flotation device – which is supposed to inflate automatically upon contact with water – did not inflate. They saw him sink under the waves and did not see him resurface.
As soon as Santarelli went into the water, other crew members kept an eye on the spot and threw flotation devices in “very close proximity” to him, according to Chicago Yacht Club Rear Commodore Nick Berberian who shared details of the accident.
Imedi maneuvered back around to the spot where he fell, and a search was established while the crew requested help and alerted authorities to the man overboard situation.
Among the other boats competing in the vicinity that came to help was the Ker46+ Denali^3 which shared this report on their Facebook page:
“Approximately 26 minutes after our start a competitor of ours, Imedi had a MOB incident. At that point she was just to weather of us. We immediately ceased racing and stood by sailing just downwind as the Imedi attempted to retrieve their crewman.
“Shortly thereafter we dropped sails and entered into an active search and rescue pattern under power. At that point we put our bowman up the rig for better observation over seas up to 6 to 8 feet high. During our search we encountered a high steep wave that caused our mastman an injury to his hand.
“After 1 1/2 hours of searching to no avail, we chose to drop out of the race and get our man to shore for medical attention. Fortunately the injury only required a few stitches. We deeply regret we were unable to successfully recover the MOB. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of Team Imedi.”
Background: The 110th edition of the race attracted 288 boats across the Racing and Cruising Divisions for the 289.4 nm course from the Chicago Lighthouse, just off Navy Pier, to Mackinac Island. The Cruising Division had 43 boats starting July 20 and the balance in the Racing Division, which included Imedi, started July 21.