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Chicago-Mackinac Race—A Tale of Two Races

by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor on 19 Jul 2011
The Chicago Yacht Club's 103rd Race to Mackinac—For the 350 boats racing in this year’s Chicago-Mac Race, the experience was a tale of two distinctly different races, governed entirely by when their boats finished sailing. Vessels that finished prior to Sunday night’s horrible storm reported Champagne-sailing conditions, plenty of opportunity to fly their kites and/or Code-0s, and a race that was described by more than one racer as ideal. For these lucky boats, the wind was coming from the right angle and the wind machine granted fast passages. For the sailors who were caught out in the storm, however, Mother Nature was not kind. Peak windspeeds were reported by several boats as being north of 55 knots, with 6-8 foot seas, sheet lightning and torrential, sometimes horizontal, rain and hail.

'We got hit just before the bridge,' said Ted Etheridge, skipper of the Soto 40 One Design, Drumbeat. 'We were going sideways. Unfortunately, we had a full main up and our J4. We kept her on her feet most of the time. We don’t know what our top speed was, but there was water everywhere. The jib blew out of the forestay track and went under the boat, so that stopped us. That’s what turned us sideways. We saw 52 knots and hail.' While Etheridge went on to say that he’s seen rougher weather in previous Macs, the trouble was due to geography: Drumbeat had no runway. 'I’m very thankful that everyone was safe. Everyone stayed calm and we did what we had to do.'

'For us, the highlight was that we spent 10 hours surfing at 15-20 knots,' continued Etheridge. 'When you have a day like that, surfing down waves with the boat lit up…everyone had smiles.'

While the Drumbeat crew was able to push through the storm and finish racing, other boats took a more cautious path. 'The wind started building and we had a halyard failure on the spinnaker,' said John Korpics, co-owner of the Beneteau 37, Archangel, and the veteran of six Mac races. 'And the weather continued to build. So we decided that for the safety of our crew that we would withdraw and motor on through the storm. The highest windspeed that I saw was 50.2, but I swear [it built] and the [anemometer] read 9, so I’m not sure what that means.' Fortunately for the Archangel crew, they enjoyed fantastic sailing for a solid 24-hours, after contending with lighter-than-ideal breezes at the start.

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