Volvo Open 70 takes on Chicago-Mac Race
Published on July 17th, 2012
Unleashing the beast on the Great Lakes
By Leighton O’Connor
Chicago’s light fixture mogul Peter Thornton purchased PUMA’s Volvo Open 70 il mostro, which they sailed in the 2008-9 Volvo Ocean Race, in hopes of breaking the elapsed record of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac on July 21. And he’s reuniting il mostro with its previous skipper for the 333 mile race up Lake Michigan to Mackinac Island…. Kenny Read.
Roy Disney set the current record in 2002 on his Reichel Pugh 75 Pyewacket, an elapsed time of 23 hours 30 minutes and 34 seconds. This year Thornton will be up against the very well sailed MaxZ86 Windquest.
Thornton had been out of sailing since 2006, but got the bug again and was itching to go sailing again. What a big itch! His previous boat was the GL70 Holua. His track record was pretty good with a first to finish in the 2005 Mac and winning his division 5 times.
“Some people think that we have may have over stepped our challenge,” said Thorton. “But with any challenge you have to step up to it and try to meet the challenge. We are all out to have fun too. We are up against the DeVos’s family on board Windquest. They are incredible sailors, great people and I really enjoy sailing against them. They might just blow us of the map. Which can always happen when you are racing a new boat and don’t know how to tweak it yet.
“il mostro has created a lot enthusiasm in the Chicago Sailing Community and it’s my intent to get more people interested in sailing. I’m working with the Chicago School Board and we will be taking students sailing on il mostro. We have to introduce sailing to kids from the inner city. We have too great of a sailing venue not to try to promote sailing.”
I caught up with Kenny, fresh off the boat in Galway at the end of the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race, and got a few Kennyisms about his upcoming ride on his old flame.
LOC: Ken have you done the Mackinac before?
KR: Twice, and I don’t really remember what years to be honest, but we had some reasonable success. First time we were first to finish on the 72 foot Andrews sled Renegade and the second time aboard the brand new TP 52 Esmeralda where we won our class and were first in fleet on corrected time. Not bad for a fresh water rookie!
Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac
LOC: What do you remember about the Mac?
KR: I always tell people that after sailing around the world 2 1/3 times, that the windiest conditions I have ever sailed in was about 5 hours after the start of the Chicago Mac! I believe we saw 65 knots on the wind speed dial. I remember a really black cloud coming at us on Renegade and Wally Cross asking me if I wanted to drive. I said “sure what the heck” but the next thing I know we are careening downwind with a full main and no jib in 50 knots of wind.
I still recall one of the guys sitting next to me saying how there was a really big puff coming. I thought to myself, how much bigger can this puff be? Next thing I remember its blowing 65 and the boat is fully out of control. We kept the boat under the mast though and I believe that squall broke about four spars in the fleet and countless blown out sails. Pretty wild! I have great respect for that place.
LOC: What is your position on the boat?
KR: Sailing this time with Peter and his GL 70 crew on il mostro should be a hoot. It is strange to be going sailing again after our little adventure around the planet, but I’m looking forward to sailing in fresh water rather than salt. My position on the boat? Heck if I know. Hopefully Media Crew Member – sitting around making coffee for the crew and telling stories.
LOC: Good luck with that. What do you think of Peter’s goal to break the Mac record?
KR: For sure the goal for this boat is to break the Pyewacket record and it won’t be easy. That was a heck of a year of great reaching weather. But, if we get a similar reach, look out. The Volvo 70 is an animal on a reach. If its light air upwind or downwind, then I would guess we will be pretty average.
LOC: How do you think your old ride will perform on a lake?
KR: il mostro is one of my favorite boats ever. Obviously I have a bit of history with her. It will be great to go sailing on her again. Peter has an awesome new ride. I just hope the conditions are kind to us and we can light it up. The lakes haven’t seen the likes of a Volvo 70 at pace. Should turn some heads.
Tuning up recently on Lake Michigan.