Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sailors who didn't make it remembered at Mackinac Island memorial service

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MACKINAC ISLAND, MI -- Tuesday, the lives of the two Saginaw sailors who lost their lives Monday were remembered at a memorial service on Mackinac Island, the finish line for the Chicago to Mackinac Sailboat Race.
Monday was the first time anyone has died from an accident during the 103 year history of the Chicago to Mackinac race, and Tuesday, hundreds of people came together to remember those two fallen sailors.
“This moment certainly brings a sense of unity, sense of compassion, sense of love, and sense of teamwork, which is a core part of what sailing is all about," said Father Ron Kondziolka as he led the memorial for the Saginaw couple.
Fr. Kondziolka has traveled to Mackinac Island to welcome the racing sailboats in prayer for 10 years.  He says this year's service was the busiest, as more than 200 people were at St. Anne’s Catholic Church on Mackinac Island to show their respects to 51 year-old Mark Morley and 41 year-old Suzanne Bickel, the two who died when their boat flipped near North Fox Island in Lake Michigan.
"We share a common bond being out on the water, and the water is a dangerous place, I did not know St. Anne is a Patron Saint of those who travel on water, and how appropriate," said fellow sailor Tim Snyder.
After the service ended, racers met outside the church and remembered how the race took a twist once WingNuts sent out the distress call.
"We had our rutter wrapped up with a line, we fixed ourselves and got going," said Trey Rose.
"Saw a beacon in the water, went to check it out in case there was a person attached to it," said JC Veen.
In the tightly knit sailing community, a lot of people knew the couple, including fellow Bay City Yacht Club member John Cronk.
“Nicest guy you could ever meet in the world, he's going to be missed, Suzanne same thing, both are going to be missed, and so on," said an emotional Cronk.
And sailors said sailing in the race is a calculated risk, but up to this point, it has been an easy calculation.
Tuesday, a spokesperson the Chicago Yacht Club, the sponsor of the race, told reporters it will investigate the accident.
The hope is to get a clear understanding of what happened and look for ways to improve safety of the race.


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