The Chicago-Mackinac race begins this Saturday. Every year, 300 boats are invited to attend this rite of passage on the waters of Lake Michigan, a 333-mile race from the Chicago lakefront to a small island in the straits between Lake Michgan and Lake Huron by the name of Mackinac. Hosted by the Chicago YC and hyped as the longest freshwater race in the world, The Mac can present many challenges to competitors. Lake Michigan, often placid in the summer, can turn into a maelstrom of waves and wind as the shallow waters are whipped into a frenzy by strong breezes. There is also the chance that the wind may not check in at all, but that the bugs will.
Record-breaking is always a topic when discussing distance races and this Midwest event is no exception. Record-setting in The Mac is easier said than done; the current record holder is Dick Jenning’s Great Lakes 70–actually an Andrews 68–Pied Piper, which completed the course in 25h:50m:44s in 1987. Jennings broke a 76-year-old record held by Amorita, a 110-foot steel schooner that not only won in 1911, but survived a storm that forced fellow competitor and two-time winner Vencedor onto a reef off Charlevoix, Michigan. Amorita had an elapsed time of 31h:14m:30. The multihull elapsed time record was set in 1998, by Steve Fossett’s Stars and Stripes, which finished in 18h:50m32s. The race normally takes 40 to 60 hours to complete.
This year, four divisions will take part in the 96th running of The Mac, two PHRF, one multihull, and an Americap II. The multihulls will most likely be led by Meade Gougeon’s trimaran, Adagio, a 35-foot wooden and epoxy trimaran that’s nearly thirty years old and won the class in 2000.
For monohull line honors, and the Mackinac Cup Section One Division the favorite has to be Roy Disney’s 75-foot Reichel Pugh turbosled Pyewacket, especially since the boat and crew are fresh from soundly breaking the Newport Bermuda race record. Pyewacket, however, owes the next boat in class, the N/M 70 Denali, over five hours, and Dick Jennings’ other ‘ Pied Piper, the Andrews 72 just under 7 hours. It may be difficult for Disney and crew to save their time.
In the Great Lakes 70 class, it’ll be hard to ignore Dick Jennings and the record-holding Great Lakes 70, also named Pied Piper. This will be Jenning’s 42nd Mac race and he and his crew all know the territory and the boat very well.
Farr 40s have their own class of nine and this may well prove to be the longest buoy race in the world if they all stick together. Favorites in this class are hard to pick but watch Christopher Whitford and his veteran crew on Hot Lips, Helmut Jahn’s always well-prepared Flash Gordon, and Robert Hughes’ team on Heartbreaker.
The Farr 395 class, new to the event, has an eight-boat fleet. It will be interesting to see how the 2001 Sailing World Boat of the Year does overall. Another boat with its own class, the Beneteau 40.7, has proven to be an IMS worldbeater. The eight boats in this class are racing under the Great Lakes PHRF with a rating of 54. Itll be fun to see how they do against Sections 2, 3, and 4 of the Mackinac Cup division, where the bulk of the IMS and IOR custom boats are, with ratings that range between -15 and 69.
There are 29, count em, 29, Tartan 10s entered, two of which are the new LS-10. The Chicago YC T-10 fleet is insanely competitive and this race is no exception. Given that level of competition, and that the T-10s all rate 126, a light-air race with breeze coming up after the big dogs finish could see this fleet ranked near the top when the scores are calculated.
We dont like to leave anyone out, but with a 300-boat fleet, its inevitable. The neat thing about the Mac is that anyone can win and that everyone has a great time on the auto-less Mackinac Island, a haven of fudge and horse-drawn carriages. Whether the big story is a record, or a record amount of fish flies, well let you know in the Monday Morning Digest. To keep an eye on The Mac over the weekend, check out www.chicagoyachtclub.org