Please select your home edition
Edition
Marlow 728x90

Chicago-Mackinac Race—The New Old Fashioned Way

by David Schmidt on 18 Jul 2011
Thirsty Tiger racing in the 103rd Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac presented by Veuve Clicquot Event Media
[Sorry, this content could not be displayed]

The Chicago Yacht Club's 103rd Race to Mackinac, presented by Veuve Clicquot—Believe it or not, there was a day—not so long ago—when the Internet did not rule people’s lives.

True, information moved slower, but the pace of life was also a bit slower then as well (example: horses, not cars). For distance-racing sailors, this offered a beautiful respite from life ashore. The problem, of course, was that family and friends couldn’t track their loved ones as they raced to Mackinac Island.

Flash forward to 2011: The Internet rules the airwaves and distance racers have nowhere to hide, thanks to the magical little boxes that upload all sorts of germane information to satellites, which in turn update race-tracking web pages. Problem solved…mostly. As anyone who has ever stepped foot aboard a racing sailboat knows, electronics work great until they stop working.

Due to technical troubles, the race-tracking system for the 103rd Race to Mackinac, presented by Veuve Clicquot, stopped working some ten hours into this 333-mile classic race, presenting a 'new-old problem': How to determine where boats are, and how far they are from the finishing line.

According to Helle Getz, a Race Committee volunteer who has served on he Chicago-Mac RC for 39 races, the Chicago Yacht Club (CYC) got creative. Since boats didn’t have accurate lat/long capabilities back then (think radio-direction finders, not GPS), the CYC created a hypothetical grid over the racecourse (e.g., the X axis was lettered A through I and the Y axis 0 through 31); boats were required to radio in their position twice a day, ideally when they passed certain well-known way points (e.g., an island or a particular point). A navigator, says Getz, might call in a report advising that they had reached 'J-27' (much like the notation used in chess), thus allowing the RC to know, roughly, when to expect finishers.

Interestingly, Getz also told a fine tale of Bernie Wiczer, a prominent club member who owned a plane. Back in the day, Wiczer would take to the friendly skies with a spotter who would ride shotgun, a camera slung around his or her neck. The pair would snap images of the fleet and their position relative to the chessboard. Then, according to Getz, Wiczer and company would fly back over Mackinac Island and drop the film in a weighted bag onto the beach, right in front of RC. Some quick developing would take place, and the information would be made public.

Jumping back to 2011, the RC is reverting back to 'new-old ways' of solving the information void for a public used to up-to-the-minute updates pushed to their smartphones. The RC has dispatched a monitoring vessel to Grey’s Reef Lighthouse, which is situated some 33 miles from the finishing line, with the goal of phoning in sail numbers as the boats pass by. Also, raceboats are calling in their positions, but—being 2011—the chessboard has been replaced by GPS coordinates. All information is being uploaded to the race’s Facebook page—check there for the latest info.

So while the tracking system has failed, expect up-to-the-minute racecourse reports from the Sail-World.com team, as well as other engaging media, images and interviews, as the on-the-water drama plays out.

The flow of information might be slower this year than in times passed, this is certainly not stopping the sailors from enjoying a wonderful race. Given that Mackinac Island is a place where horse-drawn carts and bicycles—not cars—are the ticket around town, a slightly slower information flow seems fitting, given the atmosphere of this beautiful place.

For more information on the Chicago Yacht Club's 103rd Race to Mackinac, please visit www.cycracetomackinac.com
Sail Exchange 660x82 New SailsJeanneau Sunfast 660x82Protector - 660 x 82

Related Articles

Black Jack Yachting. Bigger boat. Bigger team. Even bigger performance
Throughout the iterations of maxis called Black Jack, a strong, consistent and talented team has been their focus Throughout the iterations of maxis called Black Jack, a strong, consistent and talented team has been their focus. Some were sail makers, like Skipper Mark Bradford and also Vaughan Prentice from North Sails’ Brisbane loft. Others were riggers, such as Bruce Clarke, and there are even boat builders, like Gary van Lunteren, as well as Ash Deeks.
Posted on 20 Jul
Gladwell's Line - America's Cup returns to its new home and thinking
Emirates Team New Zealand's win in the 35th America's Cup ends 17-years of wandering in the AC wilderness Emirates Team New Zealand's win in the 35th America's Cup ends 17-years of wandering in the AC wilderness and will open a new era of America's Cup, New Zealand and World Sailing. A rookie crew won the most prestigious trophy in sailing, and one of the most difficult to win in any sport.
Posted on 29 Jun
SuperFoilers Are Go!
SuperFoilers represent many things. Whilst those components are disparate and virtually from different planets SuperFoilers represent many things. Whilst those components are disparate and virtually from different planets in the great scheme of things, they come together in the one form as harmoniously as a Rolls Royce, and also deliver intense energy way past the sum of their parts, just like some amazing band.
Posted on 28 Jun
Poppy takes Australia to her dad who’s afflicted with Parkinson’s
It’s a very sad way to begin such a great voyage. Not that you would know from the ultra-effervescent Poppy Moore... It’s a very sad way to begin such a great voyage. Not that you would know from the ultra-effervescent Poppy Moore, mind you. So the chance to talk with her and learn her tale was fantastic, and she is also the best one to recount it. “I decided to sail around Australia to raise awareness and funds for Parkinson’s, because my father’s got Parkinson’s
Posted on 5 Jun
Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600 - It just works
Every now and then a boat just clicks. It has all the right bits, of the correct dimensions, in the appropriate places Every now and then a boat just clicks. It has all the right bits, of the correct dimensions, in the appropriate places, and out of it all you get something that simply sings. The Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600 is one of these craft. It was designed and built in parallel to the other, more well known versions of the brand’s vessels, and benefits from being more geared towards performance, without going tot
Posted on 23 May
The return to Coffs!
The word is out that the new race to Coffs Harbour is on. The phoenix would run once again in the Christmas timeslot The word is out that the new race to Coffs Harbour is on. The phoenix would run once again in the traditional Christmas timeslot, and also be the much easier to digest 200 or so miles. The ‘new’ race would also be geared towards club racers, so they, and their non-pro crews could be out and back, and almost more importantly, returned to work before anyone missed them. Bring it on...
Posted on 22 May
America's Cup - Southern Spars AC50 build for Emirates Team NZ + Video
The Peter Blake skippered Steinlager 2 put Southern Spars on the map 27 years after Steinlager 2 put Southern Spars on the map with her unequalled clean sweep of the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race, Southern Spars were called on to build Emirates Team NZ's America's Cup Challenger. Here's a look behind the scenes at the composite engineering process Southern Spars employ on projects ranging from Volvo OR spars, to Olympic bike wheels to an AC50
Posted on 1 May
Debbie says the 8thP with Insurance is Patience (Pt.III)
We’re back to keep exploring the nature of TC Debbie and how she came to tell us about the eighth P of insurance We’re back to keep exploring the nature of TC Debbie and how she came to tell us about the eighth P of insurance. We’ve looked at what it was like to come into a disaster zone, seen the evidence of those that did the right thing, and how the area is already on the road to recovery. Now we’ll see why patience is the key in the aftermath of her fury.
Posted on 30 Apr
Debbie says the 8thP with Insurance is Patience (Pt.II)
We’re back to keep exploring the nature of TC Debbie and how she came to tell us about the eighth P of insurance We’re back to keep exploring the nature of TC Debbie and how she came to tell us about the eighth P of insurance. We looked at what it was like to come into a disaster zone and now we see the evidence of those that did the right thing, and how the area is already on the road to recovery.
Posted on 25 Apr
You can almost see it
The windward/leeward is great fun and a real test of your skills. True, it might be hard for the uninitiated to follow The windward/leeward is great fun and a real test of your skills. True, it might be hard for the uninitiated to follow, but then sailing is not the world’s largest spectator sport by any means. Badminton does rate higher, after all. Still, when you’re doing it, you not really worried about little racquets and small, caged up, feathered thingamabobs.
Posted on 24 Apr