CHICAGO (CBS) — Twenty-four hours after a sailor went overboard during the Race to Mackinac, there is still no sign of him.
And the search continues.
We’re learning what might have caused the missing sailor to go overboard. Meanwhile, the sailing community remains heartbroken.
CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross has the story from Navy Pier.
The Chicago Yacht Club said nearly 20 boats and three helicopters were involved in a seven hour search.
On Sunday, the six to eight foot waves are considered factors in why that search was launched.
“When the wind comes out of the north, the waves build dramatically and that’s what was occurring,” said Nick Berberian of the Chicago Yacht Club.
Somewhere in this wave of competitors racing along Lake Michigan Saturday was the Imedi and its crew.
Weather and lake conditions are blamed in part for one of its 13 members, 53-year-old Jon Santarelli, falling into the water and eventually disappearing.
“Jon was moving towards the back of the boat to make a routine sail adjustment. Unfortunately at that precise time, a large wave hit the boat, causing him to slip into the water,” said Berberian. “This is an enormous tragedy. It’s an enormous tragedy to the entire sailing community.”
With a heavy heart, Berberian said sailors go overboard in races. They drill for these situations. But this one was as unique as it was disastrous.
“Jon was wearing a personal flotation device that is designed to automatically inflate when it comes in contact with the water,” said Berberian. “The crew members had reported that the life vest did not inflate.”
It’s unclear why the vest failed. First responders were quickly called. The Imedi began to circle the area and other competitors helped.
Another racer posting on Facebook “we spun around and spent the next four hours looking for him. We retired from the race. Just too emotional after we thought we had found him twice.”
Flotation devices were tossed his way, but…
“He was seen slipping under the water and unfortunately he was not able to reach those devices,” said Berberian. “This was his passion. If he had any choice as to what he was doing in time, he wanted to be out there racing.”
At least 46 teams have since retired from the Race to Mackinac due in large part to the lake conditions.
On Tuesday, an awards ceremony will take place. This tragedy will be part of that.