Some people get up in the morning and brush their teeth, others of us sail the Chicago Yacht Club to Mackinac race. It is this common. This will be my 38th trip (I missed two since I started, once due to illness, the other building an addition on my home). I'll be sailing with my father Gene doing his 61st race, sister Gail doing her 39th race, my wife Adriana, niece Laura and nephew Neal all with less than 10 races apiece.
The name of our family boat is "Five", it is a Tartan 10 (ten meters, or 33' long). Boats in the race range from 21' to 85.8', with most between 30' to 40' in length. Our start is 11:20am Saturday, July 19th part of the "Racing Division." All "Cruising Division" starts are on Friday the 18th.
The race course is 333 miles, starting off Chicago racing non-stop around the clock, finishing at Mackinac Island, which is 7 miles into Lake Huron. What are the sights, sounds and smells of sailing for about two days straight? read this.
The general public can participate:
- Buy a boat and sail it in the Mackinac Race (not this year, too late to enter, but plan for next year).
- It might not be too late to sign up as crew in this year's race. I've seen people show up Saturday morning with a gear bag and a cardboard sign looking to crew, and they get picked up. We picked up crew one year this way when we were short, he turned out to be a great guy.
- In person, you can go to the "Ashore Thing" sponsored by Michigan Avenue Magazine at East end of Navy Pier from 10am to 1pm on Saturday July 19th The boats in the race parade past the end of the Pier and announcers offer tidbits about each boat as they pass by. Maritime tradition always have boats wave at one another, while it may be friendly, it actually means that all is well aboard the boat. Give a wave, that let's us know that you're alright.
- If you have your own boat, you can watch the starts out on the Lake. If you don't have your own boat, you can charter a boat to watch the starts, then raise sail and sail along with the fleet for a while. Be aware of the USCG Local Notice to Mariners, there is an exclusion zone around the starting area, with buoys for you to stay outside of, and helpful USCG or USCG Auxiliary boats will help keep you outside of this zone.
- Some boats will send messages out to social media during the race - Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter,
- You can follow the fleet online, each boat has a loaned GPS Transponder, that reads the GPS satellites to figure their position, and then sends a signal up to a different satellite that is reported back to ground showing the location where each boat is. To track on your mobile device, you'll need the free app.
When the race is over, you can see the finish results of the fleet:
- Finishes by Division - The "race" is actually five completely different races at the same time. There are two Racing Divisions. The smaller boats in the Mackinac Trophy Division (134 boats), and then the bigger boats in the Mackinac Cup Division (136 boats). Then there is the Cruising Division (41 boats). Then the Double-Handed Division (7 boats). Lastly, the Multihull Division (6 boats). A boat is only racing against the boats within its division, they are not racing against any of the boats in the other divisions.
- Finishes by Section - Each Division is split up into Sections. It makes it easier to manage the starting line when 15 to 25 boats cross at a time, versus all 330 boats this year crossing the line at once. The Racing Sections start one at a time on Saturday, 10 minutes apart from one another between 11:00 am and 1:40pm on Saturday. While the Cruising Sections start Friday 10 minutes apart at 3:00pm and 3:10pm.
Enjoy, and good luck to all competitors!
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