Desperately close racing in the racing division of the 104th Chicago Mackinac, which started off Navy Pier today. More than 350 boats are competing in this Great Lakes classic which was first run in 1898.
It was a long year for the Chicago Yacht Club's Race to Mackinac organisers after the 2011 race was marred by the death of two sailors, Mark Morley 51, and his girlfriend, Suzanne Bickel, 41. Both from Saginaw, Mich. sailing on a 35 foot sports boat Wing Nutz, they died of head trauma suffered when the boat capsized in a wild storm off Charlevoix.
However this year the conditions seem much more benign, although thunderstorms are predicted at the top end of Lake Michigan tomorrow night.
The line honors battle in the 2012 Race to Mackinac race is being fought between Peter Thornton’s round the world downwind racer, the Volvo 70 il Mostro, being skippered by the legendary Ken Read and Dick and Dough DeVos fixed keel Z86 Windquest, the 2011 monohull line honors winner and last week’s Bayview Mackinac winner, assuming neither boats suffer any equipment failure which seems unlikely in what has been shaping as a light weather race.
Two hours into the race il Mostro had extended her lead to almost a mile on Windquest, as she skirted around the bulk of the racing fleet on the eastern side of the course.
But Windquest gradually chipped back the lead. Il Mostro gybed first heading for the South Michigan weather mark and back towards the rhumbline. About 30 minutes later Windquest, who had been the more westerly of the two boats, gybed and she now leads the race by three quarters of a mile. After another 30 minutes Windquest gybed back, the lead boats are mid-lake abeam of Racine.
This battle is likely to continue all night. It could be that the only way either boat escapes the other, is in the soft prefrontal wind conditions excepted in the small hours.
In third place on the water is Oocean, the Gary Feracota skippered Andrews 77 Ocean, ahead of Jerome Sullivan’s 70 foot canting keeler Merlin, who is leading the division on handicap. Defiance Dale Smirl and Bob Warneckes’s Judel-Vrolikj 66, the Bayview Mackinac handicap winner follows, then Phil O’Neil’s TP52 Natalie J, her sister ship Mark Hauf’s Imedi and Equation, Bill Roberts STP65 (the former Rosebud and 2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart winner).
Up in front of the racing fleet, which started in divisional waves from 11am this morning, are the 42 boats in the cruising fleet who will no doubt be interested spectators as the big boats sweep past them tomorrow.
Chicago Mackinac - Saturday evening winds
A cold front is now moving down Lake Michigan but is still in the upper third at this time, with a soft band of pressure in front of it it’s expected to hit the race leaders between 4am and 7am on Sunday July 22.