My husband and 13-year-old son sailed in the 2011 Race to Mackinac Island. It was their first Mac race, a 333-mile sailboat race from Chicago to Mackinac Island in Michigan. Two other Evanstonians, Sean Jolie and Chris Froeter, were among the 8-man crew aboard Chief, a 33.5 foot Beneteau 10R.
During this year’s race, two experienced sailors died during a violent storm with wind gusts up to 100 knots and waves of 4-6 feet. The deaths were the first in the race's 103-year history.
News of a capsized boat, six rescued crew members, missing sailors… it was upsetting and surreal.
While I waited on Mackinac Island Monday for any news about Chief's whereabouts (the race tracking system had crashed), word came in that two bodies had been recovered from Lake Michigan. As much as I wanted to shield my other children from that horrible news, there was no escaping how devastating the situation was: Throughout Mackinac Island, flags were flown at half staff, people talked about the storm that claimed the lives of two experienced sailors, and prayers were muttered aloud for all the boats still out there.
My youngest son, at 8 years old, was particularly eager to see his dad. Frightening words like mayday, distress, man overboard, capsized and rescue became more and more frequent as the day went on.
After Chief finally crossed the finish line and rafted up at the dock, our 8-year-old screamed “Daddy!” and rushed into his father’s arms.
I cannot fathom what the families of the sailors who perished must be feeling. Today is our 20th wedding anniversary, and I will be forever grateful to have my husband back, safe and sound.