Chicago-Mackinac Race—Pre-Start Predictions

Beneteau 36.7 fleet heading north on port tack towards Mackinac.
Event Media

The Chicago Yacht Club's 103rd Race to Mackinac, presented by Veuve Clicquot—Anticipation ratchets higher still as sailors swap bits of 'in-the-know' tactical gossip on the docks of the Chicago Yacht Club, just hours before the starting sequences begins for the fabled 333-mile race from the Windy City to the island that relies on horses—not cars—for transportation.

First, the good news: According to the latest wind forecasts from, the fleet will experience deep sailing angles and plenty of time to enjoy the glorious sight of their spinnakers. Crews that have their gybing down pat will be rewarded; crews that do better on the uphill stuff will have their work cut out for them.

Now, the less-than-great news: Also according to the forecast, the fleet is looking at fairly soft breezes, mostly in the 10-15 knot range. While this is great for an uphill or broad-reach, it will mean hot on-deck temperatures for the sailors. For boats with Asymmetric spinnakers, this will mean hotter angles and plenty of gybing; for boats with standard spinnakers, this will translate to the ability to sail a near-rumbline race, albeit a fairly warm race. Fortunately, Lake Michigan is still plenty cool, offering some respite. Given today’s cloud cover, the sun shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

The venerable T-10 class, 29 boats strong, once again heads for Mackinac Island.
Event Media

Interestingly, the forecast is calling for a westerly shift to the southerly flow starting on Sunday morning. For the fastest boats, this could mean that the headsails stay properly flaked the entire time. Slower boats are likely to encounter some headwinds, starting on Sunday at around 1800 hours and continuing throughout Monday morning.

Weather guru Chris Bedford has suggested that this could be a classic case of the rich getting richer, (e.g., the fastest boats that can stay on the magic carpet ride will reap the best rewards), but as of the most recent forecasts, there are enough wildcards left on the table (weather-wise) to make this an extremely interesting contest. Stay tuned for more information, as it becomes known.

For more information on the Chicago Yacht Club's 103rd Race to Mackinac, please visit