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Two Michigan residents lose their lives in boat race accident

A fatal boat accident during the annual Race to Mackinac took the lives of a Saginaw couple earlier this week. A spokesman for the club that sponsors the race says that this is the first deadly boating accident in the 103 year history of the race.

Just after midnight on Monday morning a thunderstorm on Law Michigan created four to six foot waves and heavy wind gusts. Two Saginaw residents, the 51-year-old skipper and a 41-year-old woman lost their lives when their boat "WingNuts" capsized in the storm.

The generally windy conditions made for some of the fastest times in the history of the race according to other experienced skippers. The first 30 hours of the race had ideal conditions up until the time of the storm.

This race from Chicago to Mackinac is the longest freshwater boat race in the world at over 333 nautical miles. Partially because of this it is difficult for race organizers to be able to predict what sort of whether the racers may encounter throughout the duration of the race. Even when sailors know that there is likely to be stormy conditions they sometimes welcome it as long as it brings with it a sufficient amount of wind.

In strong and storm driven winds sailors can adjust their sails to reduce the risk of capsizing. But on Lake Michigan storms can develop quickly or suddenly gain in strength and wind speed. The storm that took the lives of these two sailors was reported to have had wind speeds of more than 50 knots.

Source: Grand Rapids Press "Tragedy strikes Chicago-to-Mackinac race as two die after WingNuts boat capsizes" Kelly Hill, July 19, 2011

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