2016-07-23 / Top News

Chicago Yacht Club To Bring 300 Racers to Island

By Audra Gamble

Starting at the Chicago Lighthouse Friday, July 22, 328 boats will race from Chicago to Mackinac Island in the 108th Race to Mackinac. The race, sponsored by the Chicago Yacht Club, is the oldest and longest freshwater distance boat race in the world. Depending on the race conditions, the first boats will likely make it to Mackinac Island between sunset and midnight Sunday, July 24.

Spanning 289.4 nautical miles, the race attracts those who leisurely cruise and those who aim to break the records for fastest race. Race boats are divided into fleets based on boat type. Among those fleets, sections of eight to 30 boats will start at the same time. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., sections will leave in 10-minute increments from the Chicago Lighthouse.

The cruising division will set sail at 3 p.m. Friday, and the racing divisions will begin to leave Chicago at 11 a.m. Saturday. The winners in each section will receive a plaque and a flag, along with bragging rights.

Depending on the weather and wind conditions, it takes between 40 and 60 hours to finish the course. Initial forecasts for the race show a potential for severe thunderstorms throughout Saturday. It is not uncommon for there to be storms throughout the Race to Mackinac.

Crews must sail throughout the night, sleeping in shifts while racing to reach Mackinac Island as quickly as possible.

The first Race to Mackinac was held in 1898, but the large number of boats participating in this year’s race is a far cry from the five boats that made the trip that first year.

While most of the entries in the Race to Mackinac are based in the Midwest, boats from as far away as Arizona, Colorado, and Florida will participate.

The record for a monohull boat was set by Roy Disney on Pyewacket in 2002 with an elapsed time of 23 hours, 30 minutes, and 34 seconds. The record for a multihull boat is 18 hours, 50 minutes, and 32 seconds, held by Steve Fossett on Stars and Stripes in 1998.

This year, there are two boats race chair Don Maxwell has his eyes on. Looking to shatter the multihull record set by Stars and Stripes is the crew of the Areté, an ORMA 60 trimaran from the Port Huron Yacht Club. The Areté set a new record in the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race Sunday, July 17, when it covered the 273-nautical-mile Cover Island course to the finish line in 21 hours, 44 minutes, and 58 seconds.

“They’ve really caught our eye, and it’s going to be exciting to watch,” Mr. Maxwell said. “Based on the models I’ve been looking at, it’s possible Areté could get there in as little as 13 hours, if the conditions are ideal.”

As for the monohulls, Peter Thornton’s Il Mostro is a favorite to lead the pack. Flying the Chicago Yacht Club burgee, Mr. Thornton’s Volvo 70 boat set the record for the Shore Course in the 2013 Bayview Mackinac Race.

The current forecasts for the Race to Mackinac show a potential for thunderstorms throughout the day Saturday, which may make for an eventful start to the competition.

“Thunderstorms change the tactics of whether you want to manage close to shore or scatter out,” Mr. Maxwell said. “When everyone is all together at the start, it is so critical for trying to get an advantage over some of your competitors.”

As boats approach the end of the Race to Mackinac, they will travel under the Mackinac Bridge and make a straight path to the Round Island Lighthouse, where the finish line is marked. For many of the Race to Mackinac sailors, getting to the Island is a long-anticipated reward for completing the racecourse.

“I race all over the world and I can’t say that I’ve ever done any kind of race that ends in such a great destination with such charm,” Mr. Maxwell said. “Mackinac Island is what we all look forward to so much.”

The race can be tracked on www.cycracetomackinac.com, which will show the most up-todate GPS locations of all boats in the race. The race can also be followed on smartphones using the “YB Races” app, available for both Apple and Android phones.

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