The 103rd Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, presented by Veuve Clicquot, is one of the oldest and most prestigious freshwater sailing races in the world. 'The Mac,' starts in downtown Chicago two miles east of Navy Pier. The fleet will sail up Lake Michigan, continue just over four miles into Lake Huron and finish off Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan, a distance of 333 miles.
The Cruising fleet will set sail at 3:00 pm Friday, July 15th and the Racing fleets will start from 11:30 am Saturday, July 16, 2011, with smaller, slower boats starting first.
This year 361 boats will be racing across 20 sections and each of the sections will provide a race within the race.
One of the hardest fought, is amongst the one design fleets of Tartan T10 and younger LS10s - boats that just seem to say Great Lakes.
Chicago Yacht Club sailors Nancy and Tim Snyder are owners of a 1984-built Tartan T10 called Cheap Thrill. They have won the T-10 section in the Mac seven times and have placed second overall one of those times. This is Tim's 23rd Mackinac race and Nancy’s 22nd.
Nancy explained, ‘The T10s are very popular here in Chicago and across the Great Lakes. Other than that, there are only a handful of them in San Francisco and Houston and maybe a few in Florida. Tartan Marine was an Ohio based company so the marketing had a lot to do with being local.
‘In my view, they are tremendously popular boats because they are large enough to enable you to do all the racing on the Great Lakes, you can do the Mac Race in them, for example. The T10's, stopped production in 1984, so they are not new. They are very affordable, they are terrific day sailing boats and they have a great big cockpit. They are great for just going out with a bunch of friends and spending the day on the boat. There are a number of them that don’t race and they are used as day-sailers and such.
‘You also have some accommodation below. There is single burner stove that allows you to boil water, a sink and there is a Porta-Potti, not like an official head with a shower or anything. The boats are very basic - we call them fiber glass pup tents.
‘In the newer LS10s you are able to stand up down below, but in the older T10s you cannot, you are crouched over. There are no windows but it is not a very big boat. You do have this great big hatch cover that when you take it off gives you quite a lot of light below. It’s a really great all around boat for day sailing, for racing and for cruising, as long as you don’t need luxurious accommodations.
Tim Snyder added: ‘The T10s are pretty competitive. There will be 24 this year.
‘The newer LS10s have identical hulls but by default they are younger boats, so yes they use a little different construction than some of the older boats, but I will tell you that most of the older boat owners are serious competitors and have done a lot of rebuilding of the hulls. There have been some modifications allowed in some of the bracing, the stiffening that we can do to the older hulls to keep them competitive.
‘They are not quick boats. In howling gales you will be going upwind probably six and a half knots. Downwind you could do a steady nine to ten, with fourteen to fifteen knot surges down the waves.
‘We have always felt the T10 provides some terrific racing, so we get the same thrill as everybody else that's out there going down the waves.
Nancy noted, ‘To be honest we are the cheap seats on the Lake. Affordability and the restricted number and type of sails you can purchase and the kind of equipment you can put on the boat, keeps it within reach people’s reach. I think that is part of the reason for the great popularity of the class.
‘On Cheap Thrill specifically this will be our 13th race and we never get tired of the close racing.’ said Nancy.
Tim continued. ‘The closest finish we have been involved in was last year’s. Within the last 100 yards of the finish line the wind turned off, it just stopped but it didn’t turn off for the boats approaching the finish line. It literally looked like a train derailment and with the same kind of panicky noises that would come from a train derailment.’
Nancy explained ‘There were boats going every which way. There was a pretty sizeable current and we were finishing with some of the guys that were doing the double-handed race.
‘We had big boats in there, we had T10s in there, boats were pointing to nearly every point on the compass and it was night. The only thing that was missing was a freighter coming through the straits for us….. that would have just put the icing on the cake’ smiled Nancy broadly.
‘In the T10 fleet, Steve Koop’s American Flyer and Cheap Thrill had been vying for first and second, back and forth for a day, the better part of 30 hours most probably, and we both got caught up on one end of the line and this vacuum. Mark Kroll and his son and daughter and crew on Retention, the wonderful sailors that they are, was a little bit behind us. Of course they saw us and our struggles, and decided, rightly so and very smartly, not to go there.
Tim said ‘The finish line is quite long, being between Mackinac Island and Round Island, so you have your choice of which end to finish.’
Nancy recounted ‘Retention went around us and won the race. I think they had been maybe a mile behind us, but they won, fair and square, and we watched it happen and we couldn’t do a thing.’
Tim said ‘Nine seconds behind Retention was American Flyer and four seconds later was Cheap Thrill.
‘In other years, we’ve had finishes within 30 seconds. One time we were first and another T-10 nearly caught us at the finish line. We were drifting and they were coming very quickly with wind, and we barely managed to hold on to the lead. The kind of ‘train derailment’ that we experienced actually happens with some frequency to the very larger boats, to the 50 and 70 footers, because they often finish very early Monday morning and they get up there at say two in the morning and the wind turns off, as it often does anywhere on the Lake.
‘But it turns off especially there at the top end, because Mackinac is this big granite rock outcropping in the Lake. A bunch of thermal masses with cold water flowing between it, an interesting heat transfer environment.’
Nancy continued ‘It’s a very interesting race because of the elements on Lake Michigan and as you get to the upper end with all the islands there’s so much at play.
‘The sense of tradition and the sense of family involvement for the Mac Race are both an enormous factor. There are so many boats that are family teams and it is a very special part of this race. The tradition of it and the fact that the specialness of the race gets passed down from generation to generation is really amazing’ concluded Nancy.
Next Saturday the 18 sections of the racing fleet are scheduled to start from 1130am, when the double handed boats start first. The T-10's will, restarts and delays aside should start at 1150am. The last class to start will be the biggest of the monohull boats, the turbo's scheduled to start at 1420 (2:20pm) www.cycracetomackinac.com