Independent review of Chicago-Mackinac 2011

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 01 Aug 2011

Independent Review of Fatal Yacht Race

A guest editorial from Sail-World USA's editor David Schmidt, who led our Sail-World official coverage of the Chicago Mackinac event.

By far, the biggest sailing news of the North American summer has been the tragic deaths of Mark Morley and Suzanne Bickel during the Chicago Yacht Club's 2011 Race to Mackinac. Winds possibly exceeding 100 knots lashed the racing fleet on July 17 at roughly 2300 hours, EST, as lighting pulsated through the pitch-black air and torrential rain fire-hosed sailors.

During this melee, Morley's WingNuts, a Kiwi 35, capsized. Six sailors were rescued by Sociable, but, horrifically, Morley and Bickel were lost.

Chicago Mackinac storm   

In the wake of this disaster, Joseph S. Haas, Commodore of the Chicago Yacht Club (CYC) has asked US SAILING to conduct an independent investigation of the events that occurred during this fateful storm.

On July 28, Gary Jobson, President of US SAILING, announced that a panel of world-class offshore sailors who are also heavily involved with US SAILING's Safety At Sea seminars would execute this investigation. This panel is comprised of Chuck Hawley, Sheila McCurdy, Ralph Naranjo, and John Rousmaniere. According to the CYC's recent press release, the independent panel will present its findings to US SAILING and the CYC in mid-to-late October.

Commodore Haas demonstrated excellent leadership during this crisis and quickly asked US SAILING to launch this independent investigation.

While never easy, positives can (eventually) come from awful situations such as this one. For example, following the disastrous 1979 Fastnet and the 1998 Sydney Hobart Race and its sub-sequential coronial inquiry, best-practice standards for long distance racing have been improved worldwide. It seems likely that US SAILING's independent investigation will bring more improvements.

While these are the first sailing-related deaths to have taken place during the Race to Mackinac's proud 103-year history, it's important to recognize that weather patterns the world over seem to be intensifying with climate change.

Certainly the high-90s heat wave that was washing over the Midwest at the time of the tragedy compounded the storm's already-terrible power, but freshwater sailors and race organisers worldwide must now be prepared to encounter beyond-cyclone-force winds such as the supercell-cum-meteorological juggernaut that rolled this fleet.

David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor


More from the European and UK scene,

The 2011-2012 Clipper Race has started. The competition is the world's longest yacht race with participants, many who are sailing novices, taking almost a year to circumnavigate the globe.

Next up we have the Olympic Test event in Weymouth. Can GBR retain its dominance?

Hot action here in Fuerteventura - PWA World Tour 2011  PWA World Tour

In Fuerteventura the PWA Tour racers continue to wow as they do battle in crazy conditions. The Freestyle event ended on Wednesday and was followed by a super session where the racers amazed the crowds with their spectacular performances. The Slalom event finishes today and promises to provide more mind-blowing displays of talent.

Perros Guirec Start - La Solitaire du Figaro 2011  © Courcoux Marmara

And the solo sailors... La Solitaire du Figaro is underway and got off to a good start yesterday in Perros Guirec. Hundreds of fans lined the cliffs and crowded onto the spectator boats to see the sailors set off on the first leg of the four stage month long race. Keep watching this space as we bring you daily updates on the solo sailors progress.

Check out the stories below

Jeraldine Kennedy, Sail-World Europe & UK Editor

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Chicago Yacht Club asks US SAILING to review Mackinac 2011
Chicago Yacht Club,
After two sailors' lives were lost during the recent Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, Commodore Joseph Haas of the Chicago Yacht Club, the race's organizer, asked US SAILING to conduct an independent study of what happened. On July 28 Gary Jobson, the President of US SAILING, appointed the Independent Review Panel for the 2011 Mackinac Race, and directed it to consider what lessons might... [more]
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PWA Sotavento Fuerteventura Grand Slam day 9 - Spectacular crashes
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Heather Ewing,
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Volvo D-One Gold Cup - Tom Slingsby takes top spot
Elena Giolai,
Volvo D-One Gold Cup - After four days of competition at its highest level racing drew to a close today. The event is valid as a fourth round of the Volvo Cup 2011. It was a pleasure for Fraglia Vela Riva to host this emerging and innovative D-One fleet, since its creator Luca Devoti trained right here on Lake Garda.... [more]
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Optimist Open and National Championships UK preview
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Finn Silver Cup - Arkadiy Kistanov maintains lead to win
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OK Dinghy World Championship to Nick Craig
Mary Reddyhoff,
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Squib Irish Nationals at Howth YC
Graham Smith,
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Finn Silver Cup 2011 Moscow, Russia. The fourth day of the Finn Silver Cup in Moscow finally produced some great racing. After suffering with light and non-existent wind so far, the 38 strong fleet got in three great races. Race wins went to Julian Massler (GER), Arkadiy Kistanov (RUS) and Artur Ponieczynski (POL), though Kistanov still leads the championship.... [more]
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The 2011 Contender Worlds, over the week of the 18th to 22nd July, attracted a near record entry of 144 sailors from 12 countries to the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.... [more]
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