Over 333 boats are entered to go sail in a race that is 333 statue miles long (289.4nm), the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac. Good Karma. The oldest annual freshwater distance race in the world is an enormous part of the Chicago area and Great Lakes social sailing calendar.
Forgetting the fact that you have to actually sail to get to Mackinac Island, that magical little place on the northern part of the Michigan peninsula, the thousands of sailors that participate from around the world often look forward for months to the annual Mac Race 'send off' party hosted by Chicago YC’s Monroe Street clubhouse— a wonderful place to catch up with friends from all points of the compass. That past Chicago Mayor’s who rule like monarchs from on high call the Chicago YC 'home' for weekly luncheons with friends and 'patrons' simply adds to the eclectic mix one sees in one of the coolest cities on the planet. After all, when the world’s largest derivatives, futures, options and commodities traders in the world (Chicago alone accounts for 75% of the world’s trading volume) quit at 1530 hrs, it’s high-time to head down to the waterfront to relax and go for a swim (pealing off every article of clothing) or going sailing with friends!
What is considered a 'weekend vacation' for many in the Midwest that love the Chicago waterfront? The 'play pen' (just north of Navy Pier and south of Oak Street Beach along Lakeshore Drive) and the festivities associated with the Chicago-Mac Race. Hundreds of powerboaters, sailors of every persuasion, and the thousands that live in the tall condominium buildings looking down from their 100 story flats (e.g. think of the Trump Tower on the Chicago River), are all participants in this enormous festival of sailing that takes place on Saturday, July 19th.
More than 3,000 individual sailors from throughout the Midwest, the U.S. and Canada are participating in the 2014 event. Competitors come from nearly all U.S. states as well as internationally, including Germany, Ireland and New Zealand.
'We will have our usual excellent level of competition in this year’s race,' said Matt Gallagher, Chairman of the Race. 'All sections— our cruising fleet, one design fleets and our open sections — have deep levels of talent and experience of racing the Mac. Most especially, we’re excited to have the J/120s back in their own one-design section this year. They join our many other one design sections that include the Level 35s (J/35s), J/105s, J/109s, J/111s and others,' said Gallagher. No other brand has such an enormous presence in the race, five one-design classes is unprecedented in the history of the race that began back in 1898.
The unpredictable weather and fickle winds on Lake Michigan make the Race to Mackinac a supreme test, which many competitors feel rivals any ocean race. As one veteran sailor put it, 'It’s fun, but it’s serious fun.' Stripped down to its essence, The Mac, like all sailboat racing, is still primarily a test of strength, endurance, strategy and willpower.
Who are the 'players' in this year’s race? Simple. Just about any J/Team that has their act together that doesn’t stop for one minute the entire race. It is literally a 289nm sprint, no holds barred, stomp that accelerator to the wall type of race. No one lets up. When you do, you lose 10 boat-lengths, and that decides the outcome of the race! So it goes. A 289nm 'day race'.
Unprecedented for any offshore race worldwide is the simple fact that no less than five (5) one-design fleets of J’s are participating in this year’s MAC- J/35s, J/105s, J/109s, J/111s and J/120s. For the Level 35 Division, eight J/35s are lining up for one of their best turnouts in years. Included in their fleet are a number of past Chicago-Mac champions, including Alpha Puppy (Richard Stage), Bad Dog (Larry Taunt), Bozo’s Circus (Bruce Metcalf), Canis Major (Aimee Strittmatter), Houqua (Jack Andree), Papa Gaucho II (recent Bayview-Mac winner Keith Stauber), Shearwater (Tom Anthony), and Touch Of Grey (Larry Schell).
After a slow year last year, the J/105 class has fielded the second largest one-design class with 20 boats hitting the starting line. Leading the charge is J/105 Class President Carter Williams from Harbor Springs, MI on Creative Destruction. Joining him in the weekend adventure are other leading teams like Green Flash (Jane Enterline), Here’s Johnny (John Moore), Phantom (Peter Schwarzbach and Bob Emanuel), Pterodactyl (Mark Symonds), Rocking Horse (Sandy Curtiss), Sealark (Clark Pellett), Striking (Vanessa Gates), The Asylum (Jon Weglarz), Valhalla (Mike and Kathie Newman), and Vytis (Gytis and Tomas Petkus).
Another competitive fleet of nine J/109s are joining the party, including Callisto (Jim Murray), Certainly (Don Meyer), Driven 2 (Jim Milliken), Fandango (Martin Luken), Full Tilt (Peter Priede), Momentus (Kevin Saedi, George and Robin Simkins), Northstar (Dave Gustman), Realt Na Mara (Tom Londrigan) and Slapshot (Scott Sims).
Most of the top boats on Lake Michigan in the J/111 class are sailing due to the fact that it’s not only part of their offshore season series, but it’s a great warm-up for the following week’s J/111 North Americans taking place in Harbor Springs, MI. After a strong showing at the Chicago NOOD Regatta, expect to see the trio aboard Kashmir (Brummel, Henderson and Mayer) leading the thirteen boat fleet off the starting line. They will be accompanied by twelve other determined teams like Impulse (Miz, Dreher and Hatfield), Lucky Dubie (Len Siegal), Misty (Tom and Carol McIntosh), My Sharona (George Gamble), Nighthawk (Tom Edman and Steve Dabrowski), No Surprise (Dave Irish), Rowdy (Rick Witzel), Skull Cracker (Dan Kitchens), Utah (Brad Faber), Velocity (Marty Roesch), Wind Czar (the 2013 J/111 NA Champion- Rick Lehmann) and Wooton (Bill Smith).
Like their J/105 colleagues, the J/120s have also made a big comeback this year with eight boats headed for the starting line. A favorite may be the winning Bayview-Mac team of Mike and Bob Kirkman on Hot Ticket. Then again, Frank Kern’s Carinthia that took third in Bayview-Mac may be working on a redemption plan to secure the gold! Also sailing are Flyin Irish (Bill Bresser), Irresistible Too (Gerald and Joanne Hines), Jahazi (Fran Giampoli), Nauti Boys (Ed Vermet and John Hughes), Night Moves (Henry Mistele) and Perversion (Dennis Detmer).
In the big handicap divisions, we find the J/145 Main Street sailed by Bill Schanen and family from Port Washington, Wisconsin sailing in Division 2. The Cup Division 3 fleet has three J/130s, two J/133s and a J/124 registered, including the top two boats from the recent Queen’s Cup Race from Milwaukee, WI to Muskegon, MI. The 130s are Edge (Bob McManus), Salsa (Jim Gignac) and Willie J (Doug Petter). The 133s are Renegade (Tom and Beth Ann Papoutsis) and Scirocco 3 (Bob Klairmont). The J/124 Still Messin will be sailed by Adam and Jerome Esselman.
The battle of the J/122s continue in Cup Division 4 with Matt Songer’s Evvai hoping to overcome the legacy of Mitch Padnos’s and Tracy Brand’s famous Sufficient Reason (the 2013 Overall and Class Division winner). Rounding out the class are fraternal sisters, the J/44 Sagita (Jon Somes and Larry Oswald) and the J/46 Windrush sailed by George Hender.
Finally, in Cruising Division 1 is the J/42 Another J skippered by Conrad and Deb Deeter from Hopkins, MN. There’s just one J entry this year in the Double-Handed Division, the same J/29 TFWB Relentless sailed by George and Scott Petritz that has done well in other big double-handed events on the lakes. Then, in Trophy Division 6 we see the Mac 'debut' of the J/88 Hokey Smoke sailed by Richie Stearns and also entered is the J/33 Retriever helmed by Matt Beer. Lastly, in Trophy Division 7 is the J/92 Cyclone skippered by John Madey.
For more Chicago Mackinac Race sailing information, click here