The events that happened at the start of this past weekends Chicago to Mackinac race were very sobering to us and the sailing community. Here at RailMeets our thoughts are with Jon’s family, friends and shipmates. We did not know him other than meeting once at a party but I am positive he will be remembered fondly and be missed.
Every one of us has moved around on a boat only to have a wave kick the boat sideways or push the boat up or down sending us into a tumble. Sometimes we get a nasty bruise or cut, we put some tape on it and keep going. Once in a while we get a leg in the water but we grab a lifeline or one of our shipmates manages to grab us as we go flying by. Rarely do we end up in the water.
Every so often a perfect shit storm happens. A slip leads to a fall which leads to a person in the water in difficult conditions. Equipment malfunction stacks the odds against them.
Most sailing tragedies we rationalize away. We think we wouldn’t have made that navigation error or that my boat is perfectly maintained or I don’t sail on a science project or I am in shape and my body can handle the stress. This one hits home because missteps and falls have happened to everyone that has ever stepped on to a race boat. It’s the nature of the game and part of the risks we take to pursue the sport we love and are passionate about.
Kudos to the boats and sailors that were able to be part of the search. It will be a while before we see a report on what happened but till then I ask that you go into your gear bag and check your equipment. Do your shoes and boots have enough traction? Check your life vest, is it in good condition? If it’s an inflatable, have you checked if it inflates? Is the trigger expired? Are your sailing gloves in good condition? How about your shipmates equipment?
This is not a reason to stop racing sailboats. I doubt Jon would have wanted that. It is a reason to pause, check our equipment and make sure we always have one hand for the boat and one for ourselves.