Sailor who fell overboard in Lake Michigan remains missing as weekend race ends

CHICAGO -- A sailor who went missing during the Race to Mackinac remains missing Monday.

Many boaters have crossed the finish line Monday, but that comes as there's no sign of the sailor who went overboard in Lake Michigan

Jon Santarelli, 53, was making a routine adjustment on the sail of the boat he was on during the race on Saturday. In that moment, a large wave swept over him, tossing him overboard. The crew was four miles offshore.

Race organizers said Santarelli was wearing a life vest, which should have inflated automatically when it hit the water, but it didn't. His crew threw him a flotation device while they tried to circle back and save him. Santarelli went under and has not been found since.

Competing boats that were in the vicinity suspended their race to help with the search, joining in with the U.S. Coast Guard, the fire department and the police department's marine unit. The search was called off at sunset. His friends are in disbelief.

"Jon was just the heart of the Chicago sailing community and by any account of anybody that knew him, they would tell you the same thing," said Matt Knighton, Santarelli's friend. "It's hard because every time I think about him now, at least for me, I keep seeing his smiling face."

"You cannot participate in this sport and when something happens to one of your fellow sailors and racers, it has a tremendous impact," said Nick Berberian of the Chicago Yacht Club.

The conditions Saturday were tough, with about six-foot waves. But race officials say these sailors are very experienced and used to rough conditions on the water.

Many of the racers will complete their journey Monday. ABC7 has been told Santarelli will be honored in some way during the awards ceremony on Tuesday at Mackinac Island.
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