The Chicago Yacht Club’s 103rd Race to Mackinac, presented by Veuve Clicquot, is just a few days away and there are 3,400 sailors and their families now beginning to focus on the expected weather conditions.
It seems a colorful spinnaker start is likely for both the 50 boat Cruising fleet, whose scheduled start is this Friday 15 July, and for the 301 faster Racing boats that will head off from 11:30am Saturday 16 July, on the 333 mile race to Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan.
This morning Chicago Mackinac Race Weather forecaster Chris Bedford was very upbeat about the weather ahead.
‘It is looking like a pretty good race. The current high pressure system will stay over the Great Lakes for the next couple of days. That moves out to the east late on Friday and Saturday while a new weather front will be approaching from the North West.
‘That will set up a developing southerly flow, which is obviously the best condition for the fleet as it will be pushing them along up towards the Mackinac Bridge.
‘I think that the start on Saturday will begin in a light south east lake breeze initially, and that the lake breeze will probably shut down for a short period, but I don’t think it will be all that long before we start to get into a gradient south to south-south west wind that will build across the entire Lake by early Sunday morning.
‘That will continue to build probably into the mid teens I would say across much of the Lake on Sunday and could be around 20 knots Sunday night into Monday.
‘On top of that there will likely be a fairly decent wind acceleration going on through the Mac Straits as well.
‘The way I see it right now is that the fleet will have a little bit of a slow start in the lake breeze but will be finishing in moderate to fresh conditions, probably on late Sunday night for the faster boats and Monday for the medium paced boats.
‘I definitely see this year, right now, as the ‘rich getting richer’ scenario. It looks like the wind will be building in the upper part of the Lake first and then working its way down the Lake, so that any boat that is ahead and able to nose up into that stronger pressure is just going to be getting more and more pressure all the time.
‘I see the leading boats just extending way as they get further north.
‘Certainly it does look like a big boat race that's for sure, especially with that wind direction.
‘I think the weather for the most part looks decent Saturday and most of Sunday.
There are some possibilities of thunderstorms across Northern Wisconsin and upper Michigan that could come into play Sunday evening and that might throw a little bit of a randomizer into the show.
‘The wind should stay most of the way to the Mackinac Strait on Monday night and Tuesday.
‘By early Wednesday the slower boats going in there are going to actually have a different weather set up.
‘The front goes through and it looks like it might get a little bit chilly up in the northern part of the Lake with easterly flow behind that front. I think the front will build sometime Monday night or early Tuesday, winds will switch around to the north east and east and they could be moderate for a while on Tuesday. Then things might get quite light and unstable on Wednesday because that same front moves north again as a warm front.’
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