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Thread: Chicago - Mackinac Race

  1. #1

    Chicago - Mackinac Race

    Chicago Race to Mackinac Island

    By Kris O

    “The” race of the summer for Chicagoans and many sailors around the world have it on the “bucket-list”. Personally this was my 9th race and the 5th with this particular boat owner. There are quite a few West Coast sailors that participate each year so its easy to find a friend to hang with at the party. The race is 333 miles. It alternates between the 3rd and 4th weekend each July with the Port Huron to Mackinac race. The following weekend of the last race is the Harbor Springs regatta which is a short delivery from Mackinac Island or a 30 mile cab ride from the ferry docks. The race can throw anything at you from dead calm and biting flies to a thunderstorm with 50kt winds. Depending the year you may get both. Speaking of the party…This year was the first year for the Veuve Cliquot as title sponsor and I must say they hosted a very nice reception Thursday evening prior to the race for owners and invited guests at the Chicago Yacht Club. Friday for me was full on prep. day for the boat, making sure the safety equipment is stored according to the chart, reviewing and packing sails and storing gear. CYC does random inspections of boats both prior to and post race so it’s rather important to check off the list or required gear. I also just try to help the boat owner out because he is quadriplegic, with only slight movement in his neck and one of his hands so he depends on his crew to do much of the boat work. After, installing the satellite tracker, race stickers and noting missing equipment for a West Marine trip, I then headed to the private weather briefing from Commanders. The scenario was mixed and depending on the speed of the boat, it was going to either be easy or a mix of storms followed by calm. The Blue line indicated a possible TP52 track from the weather forecaster, the green indicating a Sydney 38 track. The boat we are sailing is a BH 41 sometimes called a Sydney 41 and close to an S38 in performance. Best suggestion….stay 10 miles off shore at sunset….


    The Course: From Chicago to Mackinac Island

    Now to collect the rest of the crew and head to the party. Yes, CYC hosts a pre-race party which generally has good attendance and is rather fun. The race starts are not until after Noon on Saturday so even the pro-crews tend to participate. CYC closes off their parking lot to cars, vendors like West Marine, Henry Lloyd etc. set up tents of merchandise and the club grills food and sells drinks. A huge tent is set up for the band. The inside of the club is packed. Computers are set up in the lobby so you can check if your tracker is working and monitor the weather. Although everyone agrees that the party is not as good as it was when the band was on the roof of the yacht club and the party was open to the city of Chicago in general, it is still is fun. Unfortunately, a huge thunderstorm hit about 10 pm putting a damper on the party. I booked home and cannot report on late night club action.


    Saturday prior to the start of the race we headed out for the parade of boats. CYC requires that all boats pass by the end of Navy Pier where an announcer is set up to a comment on each of the boats for the crowd standing by. The start was rather interesting in our case as it was VERY port tack favored and one boat elected to start on starboard or should I say park on starboard. Why when you have a 300 mile race do you need to mess with your competitors I ask??? Its Chicago… is the only answer…. A quick duck around their transom and we are off and they are sitting at the start line. Down comes the number 3, up with the code 0 and I plant myself on the rail for the next few hours. I would like to be able to tell you what the conditions were, windspeed , boatspeed etc. BUT we already have an “issue”…it seems the new computer system is blowing the circuit so we have compass , radio and GPS (which does give us boat speed on its monitor but not on the instrument readouts) . The rest of the instruments give us 0.0…not a good omen.

    We are scratch boat in Section 3 and we quickly leg out on the rest of the 18 boats. The conditions are a bit “heavier” than predicted, we take full advantage and head north. Many sail changes later, its Saturday night and the whole crew is hiking on the rail. No sleep to be had as the waves are dumping on our heads. Overall it’s not terrible conditions but it’s still rough. We see lightning behind us but we do not get rain or high winds. As daylight comes the wind starts to mellow but not the waves. Half the crew is puking. I have that “tinny taste” in my mouth so I opt for Gatorade and a Clif bar and start to feel awake even though I haven’t gotten any sleep. The wind is now coming out of where we need to go, the Number one goes up, a day of tacking is ahead of us. Thus far we have had wind the whole way and I comment to the driver that we are on the TP 52 track from the weather forecaster, which is a good thing.

    As the wind backs we put up the chute and begin the process of peeling between the code 3, and code 5 assyms and the symmetric runner depending on the wind. Not wanting to risk chute tears we only do inside peels which means I get to visit the top of the rig to look for “wind” a few times. I love my mastman! Farr 40’s are all around us which is also a good sign as they are Section 2. They try all day but do not pass us. Around sunset we are close enough to the Michigan shore that the crew’s iPhones start working. No 3g coverage, it takes FOREVER to get a read on the rest of the fleet. Facebook tells me that everyone can see exactly where we are but we cannot see them. Excellent…not! I’m asked on Facebook if we are going inside or outside of the Manitou’s, a group of islands off the Michigan coast about half way to Mackinac which often determine the race winners.



    The Manitou's

    We get a visual on the leader in our section and decide to cover at the last minute….inside it is… as dark sets in, we go into shifts and half the crew goes down below. The wind has dropped to a whisper. I’m the only foredeck so I don’t have a shift. I plop myself onto the #3 at the base of the mast and drift to sleep. Several times during the night I’m brought up for jibes and sail changes. A big full moon makes it really easy to see. At one point we can smell campfires on the beach and hear the waves crashing as we glide slowly along. Day break Monday gives us a good view of our competition as we consolidate to go through the channel. The section leader on correction is right with us. We think we can see other boats in our section but we are unsure as there is 50 ftrs. from section 1, and farr 40’s from section 2 around us also. There are also 2 boats from section 4 with us. Eagle and Copernicus, both Sydney 38’s. As we clear Gray’s reef, through a series of jibes we are able to get in front of our section leader but we know we will not save our time, we also see a couple of other boats in our section ahead of us so we settle in to make the best of the situation.



    The Straights of Mackinac separates Lake Michigan and Lake Huron




    Mackinac Bridge lies ahead



    After the finish I am able to pull up the tracker on my iPhone (still no 3g coverage, its been downloading for an hour). We are 4th. There is another boat in our section about 20 miles away, we will save our time on them, the rest about 50 miles away. Arriving at the docks we raft next to a boat in our section that passed us during the night. They were able to see the boats on the course and the speed they were going and make course adjustments…We also found out that the turbo boats like Beau Gest, Vincitore and Windquest sat for around 9 hours with only current pushing them down the Mackinac Straits. Our final results were 4th in Section and 7th overall. The boat that won our section, Flying Jenny took first overall, Eagle 2nd overall and Copernicus 3rd overall. We felt pretty good with our “no computer” performance.




    The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island was built in 1887, its sports the largest porch in the world,
    perfect for dodging mid summers hot sun or thunderstorms.




    Your taxi is ready. Pray Kramer didn't feed them "Beefareeno" before the ride!


    On the island you are hit right in the nostrils with the aroma of its residents. The movie Somewhere in Time was filmed there and really not much has changed since the early 1900’s. No cars, lots of fudge shops and horses. “Borrowing” a bicycle can land you in jail and the Fort shoots off a canon at regular intervals. I have yet to figure out the timing of the canon shots but they are spaced at just the right interval to keep you from having a decent afternoon nap. There is a Starbucks so all is not lost. On Tuesday, Mount Gay hosts an afternoon of Rum on the lawn of the Grand Hotel where the CYC also announces the section and overall winners. The official awards with the engraved trophies is held in November but the brag flags are handed out now.

    It should be interesting to see the future of sailboat racing with real time tracking technology. In my mind this gives a huge advantage to smaller boats for overall finishes as they have every section in front of them as weather buoys, at least for those that have working computers on board…..


    Kris O spends her time between S.F. and Salt Lake City and is know to frequent major sailing events worldwide, this is her 1st piece for Pressure Drop and we look forward to many more!
    Thanks Kris!
    Pressure-drop.us ~It's not the size of the website, it's how you use it! ~

  2. #2
    COO of Unauthorized Sailing Divisions! war dog's Avatar
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    Great write up thanks for sharing kris!!



    Yes this race is on my "list"

  3. #3
    Great write up!

  4. #4
    Mogul Masher Kris O's Avatar
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    Thanks all...here is the link to the race tracker if anyone would like to replay the race and see where we went wrong and others went right.... we were Scout in section 3

    http://www.ionearth.com/2010/cycracetomackinac/

  5. #5
    333 miles of fresh water, and fudge at the end.

    That's like 5 Ditch Runs with a Baskin Robins at the finish!

    They have a short handed division?

  6. #6
    Mogul Masher Kris O's Avatar
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    short handed

    Yes there is a double handed division....I believe Dave Irish and Bay Area sailor Scott Sellers won it on the Farr 30 Surprise.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by war dog View Post
    Great write up thanks for sharing kris!!



    Yes this race is on my "list"

    Ditto!

  8. #8
    Thank you for sharing your story. I love this race. This year was my 8th.
    Sailing Forums - Where Smartphones Do Dumb Things

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Kris O View Post
    Thanks all...here is the link to the race tracker if anyone would like to replay the race and see where we went wrong and others went right.... we were Scout in section 3

    http://www.ionearth.com/2010/cycracetomackinac/
    Yeah, we went wrong....
    Concrete and cars are their own prison bars....
    Meridian Racing

  10. #10
    Testies dropping Big Chicken's Avatar
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    Nice story. This year was my 2nd Chi Mac aboard Quicksilver and once again had a great time. Getting in Monday instead of Tuesday was a lot more fun. Our race sounded much like yours except we ended up 5th in section instead of 4th. Unlike last year we were just out of the flags, darn! Gives us incentive to do better in 2011.

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