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Areté sails into history with new Chicago Mackinac course record

by Laura Muma 22 Sep 2021 05:59 PDT
Areté begins the Chicago – Mackinac course speed record attempt © Laura Muma

It took just 12 hours, 30 minutes and seven seconds for the 60-foot trimaran Areté to sail into the World Sailing history books as the fastest sailboat to navigate the famous 289-nautical mile Chicago to Mackinac course.

Owner/Driver Rick Warner and nine crew primarily from Michigan and Chicago, launched from downtown Chicago Monday morning just after 10:30 a.m. CDT, riding a strong southerly breeze up Lake Michigan, to arrive just after midnight to iconic Mackinac Island.

The three-hulled rocket ship averaged just over 23 knots and bested the previous October 2017 record of 17:59:49 set by Il Mostro, a Volvo 70 monohull. Areté's accomplishment will now be ratified by the World Sailing Speed Record Council, placing it into the top 20 of fastest ranked courses in the world.

It's taken three official tries for Warner, a former Michigander now Charleston, S.C. resident, to complete the speed racing attempt. "It was worth the wait," said Warner. "Today was the culmination of six years since we first brought Areté into the Great Lakes, and it's thanks to incredible effort by great friends and teammates. Monday's conditions were tailor made for this boat and we pushed it to the limit the entire time. What a ride!"

Areté's crew includes:

  • Rick Warner (Charleston, S.C.)
  • Matt Graham (former University of Michigan, now in Boston)
  • James Cyigenza (Muskegon, Mich.)
  • Ryan Gardner (Kalamazoo, Mich.)
  • Chris Higgins (Fennville, Mich.)
  • Ryan Higgs (Chicago)
  • Jon Holstrom (Muskegon, Mich.)
  • Donny Massey (Chicago)
  • Brian Torresen (Muskegon, Mich.)
  • Matt Scharl, coach (Lawrence, Mich)
  • Zyggy Beatty (Saint Martin)
  • Tim Van Antwerp, ground crew (St. Joseph, Mich.)

The exhausted yet exhilarated crew arrived to Mackinac Island just after midnight, greeted by friends and family. After putting the boat away, the crew eagerly made their way to Mission Point Resort for hot showers and celebrations, and much needed sleep.

The Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, which is the route this WSSRC record run follows, is known around the world as a "bucket list" race, thanks to Lake Michigan's unpredictable and challenging conditions. The 112-year-old race takes place every July with 200-300 sailboats of all sizes competing in various classes. There is no official affiliation between the WSSRC and the Chicago Yacht Club's famous race.

Tri and try again

This was the third official attempt for the powerful three-hulled sailboat, originally designed for ocean racing. The first attempt, in September 2018, Areté made it to within 90 minutes of Mackinac Island, when 40-50 knot northwest winds thwarted their plans to make the final beat up toward the Mackinac Straits.

In 2019 - a planned attempt in mid-summer was aborted just before the start; and then on September 13 just one hour into the attempt and averaging 28 knots, Areté snapped a rudder bearing to end the voyage.

Warner has utilized the Covid shut down to complete many refits to the boat, including the new rudder bearings, rebuilt the foil boxes, stiffened the foils, added laminate to the top of the mast, new sails, and transitioned to full B&G navigation.

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