Blue skies and light winds for the 104th Chicago Mackinac Racing fleet start off Navy Pier.
The PUMA Ocean Racing Volvo Open 70 "il mostro"
The gradient south westerly breeze was the early Saturday morning default but a soft south-easterly lake breeze was building through the morning. The wind started around seven knots, built to 11, then started to fade later in the afternoon.
The double handed fleet was first away at 11am local time followed by Division 8, then the Tartan 10s, Division 7, J105's, Division 6, the Beneteau 36.7’s, Division v5, the Beneteau 40.7s and J109's, Divisions 4 and 3 then the J111 and J120's, Division 2 and the Farr 40's, the multihulls, Division 1 and lastly the Turbo class.
As the racing fleet moved up the course the wind moved aft, as the gradient breeze become more significant.
Soon after the start it was already clear that the line honours battle in the 104th Chicago Mackinac race between Peter Thornton’s Volvo 70 il Mostro and the DeVos brothers Z86 Windquest, the 2011 monohull line honors winner, would be close. Behind them and across high near the rhumbline was the Gary Feracota skippered Andrews 77 Ocean.
Initially il Mostro was heading higher then Windquest, slightly slower but with better VMG. 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. While she was well east of the bulk of the boats, she was closer to the Mackinac finish line than the leading group of J105’s.
Another 30 minutes later and the Volvo 70 and the Z86 were blasting away and enjoying the best conditions of any boats in the racing fleet. Defiance, Dale Smirl and Bob Warnecke's Judel-Vrolijk 66, was now third in the Turbo division ahead of Ocean.
At the top of Lake Michigan the cold front has started down the Lake but is still in the upper third at this time, with a soft band of pressure in front of it. The front is expected to hit the race leaders between 4am and 7am on Sunday.