For the 311 racing boats entered in the Chicago Yacht Club’s 103rd Race to Mackinac, presented by Veuve Clicquot, the anticipation is mounting.
The 50 cruising boats headed north this afternoon and the start for the racing fleet is tomorrow from 1130 hours, so today is all about weather files, strategy and scuttlebutt about whether the wind gods will cooperate with dockside hopes for a quick passage, or whether ace meteorologist Chris Bedford’s most-recent weather forecast—namely lighter winds and a reluctant southerly wind flow caused by a lingering high-pressure ridge to the east— will prove accurate.
Whether or not a crew is psyched or slightly leery of the weekend’s weather prediction is largely a case of whether their particular polars are suited for the light stuff or if they favor a blow. For example, the famed Great Lake 70s typically fare better in a big-breeze upwind contest than a smaller race boat that’s more optimized for off-the-breeze work, such as a TP52. Turn down the wind machine and rotate the apparent wind angle astern a few degrees, however, and the lighter, small boats quickly bid their larger brethren fair thee well.
'A couple of [the GL70s] are really well sailed and it is tough to keep up with them,' says Mark Hauf, skipper of the TP52, Imedi.
'But if the breeze is right for us we will leave them behind and we will sail to the numbers.'
'They put the GL70 class in with the Turbo [division],' said Lance Smotherman, owner and skipper of the GL70, Details.
'So not only do we have the GL70 class, which is always tight [racing], but now we also have the STP65 Equation
), Windquest, Natalie J,
and some other pretty hot boats. We raced the Queen’s Cup two weeks ago and we were in the class with those guys and we beat them all, so we hoping to repeat that fact! The weather forecast is favourable for us, so we hope it stays that way!'
'Initially it was supposed to be great and we were looking forward to that and now all off a sudden it is looking like the breeze is dying down,' advises Phil O’Neil, owner and skipper of the TP52, Natalie J
. 'We will just have to see. The problem with that for us is that the other two boats they have much taller rigs. In the lighter breeze I think they will have the advantage with that.'
'The 70 [footers] don’t like light air very much,' continues O’Neil. 'And I think that will be advantage for us with the 70s, but then the taller masts of those other two guys are going to give them a little advantage, too.'
As for the tactics involved, the logical question emerges: Will this be a rumbline race or will local knowledge prevail? 'I don’t think so,' said Hauf. 'It’s uncommon for the weather to be even across the lake. It wouldn’t surprise me if we ended going up the west shore or western side of the lake and then work across, transitioning across at night or even later than that depending on how fast we get up there. I wouldn’t say rhumbline is the best answer. Going fast north is the best answer. We’ll see how the breezes play out there.'
For more information on the Chicago Yacht Club's 103rd Race to Mackinac, please visit www.cycracetomackinac.com