Vesper Marine XB-8000 was instrumental in the rescue of four sailors during the Chicago-to-Mackinac sailboat race.

A boat competing in the Chicago-to-Mackinac sailboat race, held in July last year capsized overnight, and four sailors had to be rescued from Lake Michigan by the U.S. Coast Guard. The capsized boat was identified as High Priority 2, a 31-foot trimaran. Race organizers reported that strong winds and waves caused two dozen boats to exit the race.

A competing vessel, the J/111 Dark Horse, was sailing nearby in big winds and rough water and spotted a flare at midnight off the starboard side during a sail change. The crew checked their AIS and could not see a target in the vicinity. Shortly afterwards a second flare was spotted. The crew mobilized to investigate and en route placed VHF calls to both the Coast Guard and the race committee. The Coast Guard confirmed they could not see the capsized vessel on their AIS but had Dark Horse accurately tracked and were dispatching a rescue cutter. The Dark Horse had their Vesper Marine XISB-8000 on board.

“Sailors on High Priority 2 were straddling the main hull of the tri and were all without injury when we arrived,” said Aaron Freeman, crew, Dark Horse. “Though capsized, the vessel was not sinking, and with the rough sea state and possible danger to our vessel or sailors in the water, we decided it would be best to circle the boat until help arrived, fully prepared to assist if one of the sailors fell off and it became a man overboard situation. The USCG Cutter Biscayne Bay arrived 2 hours later, following another rescue and released us from the scene.”

At 333 statute miles or 289.4 nautical miles, the Race to Mackinac is the oldest annual freshwater distance race in the world. The race starts just past Navy Pier in Chicago and finishes between the lighthouse on Round Island and the race committee trailer on Mackinac Island, Michigan. There are approximately 330 boats with more than 3,000 sailors that participate in the annual Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac.

The WatchMate XB-8000 smartAIS transponder is the world’s first black-box AIS transponder to incorporate built-in safety alarms to alert boaters of potential collision situations, dragging anchor or man overboard situations.

“We are so pleased our XB-8000 could be used to aid sailors in distress,” said Jeff Robbins, CEO, Vesper Marine. “In this case, the transponder on an assisting vessel, helped in rescue operations and proved invaluable in the speedy recovery of four sailors in a dire situation.”

View a brief video of an installation of the XB-8000 on Dark Horse.

Installation of the XB-8000 on Dark Horse