The 103rd Race to Mackinac presented by Veuve Clicquot will forever stand in my memory as one of the greatest times I have ever had on the water.
Being implanted and in many ways adopted by the rag-tag crew of Jugband, I was able to witness the drive, dedication and constant second-guessing that goes into off-shore racing. And was lucky enough to also witness the sheer bliss and moments of ineffable gratitude that accompany years of hard work and not winning come to fruition to reward eight sailors with quite possibly the greatest on-water achievement of their lives.
The cruising division is by no means the glam division of the Race to Mac, Jugband the Jeanneau 45.2 I crewed on has two air conditioners, electric winches, bow thrusters and what Captain Harry Simmon lovingly describes as an, 'Upside down coffee table for a keel.'
But that in no way detracted from the serious attitude with which the boat raced, never was there a moment when the crew wasn’t discussing proper sail trim (more than one time the North U sail trim book was brought out) or shouting to get weight low and for me taking pictures to get off of the bow and down on the low side for crying out loud.
However the serious racing disposition quickly lightened as food was distributed steaming hot from the galley and the crew vacuumed great big heaping piles of one-pot meals up for dinner and delicious quiche for breakfast.
Post-start the wind clocked and it became a spinnaker race, all the watching other competitors was conducted through the lens of binoculars, each eye on the boat aching to scan the horizon and searching for any points of sail in front or behind. The spinnaker trimmers all taking twenty-minute shifts for fear that any longer their necks might seize up permanently.
All three of our competitors came within visual sight the last day of the race after we had lost all of them during the night. From that moment on, the horse race was afoot and emotions on the boat brimmed to a new height of race fervor and excitement.
Passing under the awe-instilling scope of the Mackinac bridge, the handheld VHF was gripped with white knuckles as the crew strained to hear the finishing times of the three boats in front of us.
With a fourth across the line finish and the knowledge that we corrected over all of the boats that had come before us, the crew docked the boat and quickly poured themselves some liquid relief from the rancor possibility of boats correcting over ourselves.
But as fate, the winds and the worlds greatest jug player (the captain) would have it; the three-bedroom condo dock queen that is Jugband soundly defeated every single competitor in both cruising divisions fleets of a combined fifty boats and finished ahead of her next closest competitor by eighteen minutes and twenty-six seconds.
It was the single greatest week of my life and I owe everything to the fortune we encountered in getting in before the storm, and the wonderful company in which I found myself.
The crew with the admiral (captain’s wife) after the flag ceremony - 103rd Race to Mackinac. Photo: Chantell Caldeira - Sean Palizza Click Here to view large photo