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Sailor’s body found in Lake Michigan a week after going overboard in Race to Mackinac

Jon Santarelli

The body of Jon Santarelli was found Saturday afternoon in Lake Michigan. | Facebook

Authorities recovered the body of a missing sailor Saturday afternoon a week after he went overboard in Lake Michigan during a sailing competition.

The remains of Jon Santarelli, 53, were spotted about noon nearly six miles offshore from the Belmont Harbor, according to Chicago Police and the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

An autopsy conducted Sunday found that Santarelli died from drowning, and his death was ruled an accident, the medical examiner’s office said. He lived in Lincoln Park.

Last weekend, Santarelli, a sailor competing in the Chicago Yacht Club’s 110th annual Race to Mackinac, fell overboard a few miles east of Navy Pier. His disappearance from “Imedi,” a boat competing in the turbo section of the race, prompted an extensive search to no avail during the week.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the Santarelli family, his friends, and the entire sailing community,” the yacht club said in a statement Saturday evening.

Yacht Club Rear Commodore Nick Berberian added that the club would investigate Santarelli’s death, including his personal flotation device.

Crew members from “Imedi” reported at the time that Santarelli went under water after his personal flotation device didn’t inflate, according to the Coast Guard. “Imedi” has 13 registered crew members and is “one of the larger and faster participants in the race,” a Coast Guard spokesman said.

The 52-foot boat was about five nautical miles from the starting line of the race near the Chicago Harbor break wall when a “man overboard” alert went out, race organizers said.

“Santorelli had more than a decade of offshore racing experience, and was a core member of the Imedi Racing team as well as the greater Chicago sailing community,” said the yacht club in an online statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and teammates.”

The search by authorities and at least five “good Samaritan boats” — other race participants or locally owned boats — covered nearly 47 square miles, said the yacht club.

Five people had to be rescued during last year’s race when two boats capsized off the Wisconsin coast. Turbulent weather forced 98 boats — nearly a third of the fleet — to retire early because of storms and waves.