Statement from Chicago Yacht Club on Race Deaths

As of Monday, July 18, it has been confirmed by the U. S. Coast Guard and it is with great regret that the Chicago Yacht Club acknowledges the deaths of two sailors who were competing in the 2011 Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac.

A severe thunderstorm crossed Lake Michigan around midnight EDT last night. Windgusts were reported at 52 knots with waves of 4-6 feet.

The Coast Guard was notified at 12:40 am via VHF radio by crew members from one of the competing boats 'Sociable' that another of the competing boats, 'WingNuts,' had capsized in these severe conditions. Five sailors were pulled from the water on arrival to the scene and one other sailor was later rescued. The six sailors were rescued by the crew of 'Sociable.'

The accident occurred approximately 13 nautical miles northwest of Charlevoix, Michigan, and 10 miles east of South Fox Island.

The 'Sociable' skipper called all boats for assistance on Channel 16 and ten boats in the vicinity immediately abandoned the race to join in search efforts for two missing sailors.

The two lost sailors were 'WingNuts' skipper Mark Morley, 51, and Suzanne Bickel, 41, both from Saginaw, MI.
Mark Morley had 44 years of sailing experience, including six Chicago Mackinacs and 85 qualifying races. Suzanne Bickel had sailed in two previous Chicago-Mackinac Races, with 16 qualifying races.

In a brief statement Commodore Joseph S. Haas said, 'On the behalf of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, the Board of Directors and Flag Officers, we express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the crew of 'WingNuts.' The crew of this boat exemplified the spirit of the Chicago Mac that is steeped in tradition of family, friends and passion for the water.'

Information will be released as it becomes available.

Media Contact:
Rachelle Treiber
Chicago Yacht Club Communications Manager
312-617-6995