Sailing in the 2013 Chicago Mackinac Race

Sailing in the 2013 Chicago Mackinac Race

This was the year to win the race for my father, Gene McCarthy.  Why?  This was his 60th Chicago Mackinac race.  He is the second one to reach this milestone, John Nedeau of Muskegon, MI was the first to achieve this many races and has sailed 65 races to date.

One thing we strive for on our boat is that all systems are go.  Nothing needs maintenance, repair or anything left to happenstance.  We sail in a very competitive section (of course everyone in the race will tell you they sail in a competitive section) but we think ours is just a bit tougher than the others.

We’re not the high budget boat, many of our sails are hand-me-downs (nice sails, but not crackling new).  Sails are the motors that drive a sailboat, one that produces just a little more horsepower will do better than one that produces less).  Wind is the gasoline that powers the sails.  Those who find more wind will go faster than those with less wind.  But then you can sail away from were you want to go to get more wind sailing more miles and not sail to where you are headed, so it becomes a game of trade-offs.

Our strategy was to sail in wind, which was predicted to be right along the shore, we sailed up the beach just past Racine, WI, before a real wind filled in that carried us across the Lake.  When we reached the Islands near the Michigan shore 2/3 of the way up the Lake (there are many Islands on Lake Michigan), normally everyone goes between the mainland and the Islands.  We were behind and took the odds of going outside the Manitou Islands.  Risky for sure and more often than not doesn’t work.  It worked and brought us back into the hunt.  Later the fleet compressed (the wind was lighter for the lead boats and slightly stronger for the boats behind) and we moved into first place in section with 32 miles to go to the finish.

We changed crew when the other shift came on deck with 7 miles to the finish (of 333 miles), and the new shift was not on their game.  Suddenly we dropped out of first.  A few changes in sail trim and course got the boat moving good getting game-on again, and we made up the loss, moving back into first winning our section by 7 minutes and 43 seconds.  That was 46 hours, 12 minutes and 24 seconds of non-stop racing around the clock.

Po Win

The Pororoca Team: Christina McCarthy, Andy Ogawa, Pat Carlson, Gail Turluck, Glenn McCarthy, Gene McCarthy, Bob Zeman, Keith Lamprecht, Adriana McCarthy, Neal Turluck (missing Laura Martin, Mark Gannon, Jack Rickard, Walt Wesley) win it for Gene’s 60th Mackinac Race (33rd place with all sections combined out of 124 overall).

What else happened during the race?  Good stories, bad jokes, great food, and multiple sail changes (everyone uses different sails for different winds and we carry 11 sails to choose from and change them as needed).  We saw many many shooting stars, satellites flying overhead and the Northern Lights gave us a decent show.

At one of the marks in the race “Can 3” in the Gray’s Reef Passage (30 miles from the finish line) has seen many of our fallen sailors ashes dropped off there.  We all believe they are having one big party.  One of our crew poured a can of beer in the water there, to pay homage to our friends and let them have one more beer – on us!

If you sign up now to start sailing and start building your experience and make it your goal to sail the 2014 Chicago Mackinac, you should succeed.  Get out there and start crewing today using any of the methods in the earlier articles.

Note – This article was corrected 8/14/13 as the race results for the fleet were recalculated removing errors and finalized on 8/13/13.

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