Consistency meets innovation in Chicago

Published on January 13th, 2015

Chicago Yacht Club announces changes to their 2015 sailing calendar. This report comes from Matt Gallagher (CYC Race to Mackinac Chair), Leif Sigmond (CYC Vice Commodore and Farr 40 owner), and Jay Kehoe (CYC on-the-water director)…

The Chicago Yacht Club will be publishing the Notice of Race for the 107th Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac on January 14. And this year, the annual running of our freshwater classic will have a new angle.

We will simultaneously release the Notice of Race for the Chicago Yacht Club Grand Prix Invitational, a High Performance Rule (HPR) regatta to be held the week before the Mac. We wanted to let you know a little more about the Grand Prix and why we’re running it.

One of the great strengths of the Chicago Mac is its consistency. We run the same course year after year, and generations of sailors from around the Great Lakes and around the world have experienced the pleasures and challenges of sailing on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron; our predecessors in the 1920s and even the 1890s experienced the same sights and raced the same course, pretty much without change. “See you on the Island” means only one thing to many of us, just as it has for well over 100 years.

However, this consistency is also one of the great challenges for the race’s organizers – how do we keep the race interesting and attract new challengers to come to the Great Lakes in the summer? How do we keep it exciting and yet honor the traditions of the past? Why should someone from the east or west coast or the gulf coast decide that 2015 is the year they should enter the race?

The CYC Grand Prix is intended to provide another reason for our friends on all the other coasts to bring their boats to the Great Lakes for a summer of racing.

We intend to run it in odd-numbered years. In those years, the Chicago Mac is the first of the two great races to Mackinac (we alternate which race is first with our friends at the Bayview Yacht Club). Odd-numbered years are also years that our friends on the east coast are not racing the Newport-Bermuda Race, so it makes more sense to transport their boats to the Great Lakes.

With three days of racing followed by a week off, competitors can enjoy Chicago for a few days before the distance race takes them up the lake to Mackinac. Running it over a holiday weekend this year allows us to offer three days of racing and offers racers’ friends and family a practically-unlimited set of opportunities to enjoy Chicago.

We have a great fleet of Farr 40s, TP52s and other HPR-type boats in the Great Lakes, but we think that the Grand Prix will entice our friends with HPR-type boats on the east coast to consider bringing them to the Great Lakes for the summer. An owner could bring his or her boat to Chicago at the beginning of July and have an entire season of great racing on the Great Lakes: The Grand Prix (July 3-5); the Chicago Mac (July 11); the Bayview Mac (July 18); The Harbor Springs Ugotta Regatta; and back in Chicago, the CYC Verve Cup in August.

The Grand Prix will be run under the HPR rule for Farr 40s, Swan 42s, TP52s and other boats with an HPR rating. It will combine three days of great round-the-buoy racing in Chicago with the traditional distance challenge of the Mac. Entrants in the Grand Prix will compete for the Grand Prix trophy under the HPR rule using a combination of their buoy-racing performance and their performance in the Mac.

Simultaneously, they will be competing in the Mac under ORR. Working with our friends who develop and maintain the HPR rule, we are making it as easy and inexpensive as possible to obtain an HPR rating for your boat; see the NOR for more details; in some circumstances, an introductory HPR certificate may even be free.

One challenge we faced in putting together the Grand Prix was making sure that it did not negatively affect the Mac experience for hundreds of entrants and thousands of sailors who are not sailing on HPR boats. For those competitors, the Mac is and will remain what it always has been – the premier distance race on the Great Lakes and the most prestigious fresh water distance race in the world.

For our 300+ entrants who will be competing in the Mac but not the Grand Prix, there will be no impact on their experience of the Mac. We’re racing the same course with the same rating rule as we have for years. For those entering into the Grand Prix, we will provide overlay HPR scoring in the Mac to calculate their Grand Prix results, and they’ll still compete under ORR as always for the Mac Cup and Trophy.

The emphasis in the Grand Prix will be providing top-quality racing and fun social events for the racers and their families. The Grand Prix will be run out of CYC’s Belmont Station; it’s a great intimate setting and a true sailing center. Belmont is also a very family-friendly place and is the focus of our junior sailing program, so racers, spouses and kids will feel right at home.

Many Mac racers never venture away from our other station, Monroe Station, and the Grand Prix will give them a chance to experience another side of our Club and our City. CYC is known for its ability to provide a great product for racers, both on and off the water, and the Grand Prix Regatta is intended to extend that experience, especially for those who choose to bring their boats to the Great Lakes for the summer.

Visit the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac webpage on or after January 14, 2015, to download the NOR and learn more about the Mac and the Grand Prix.

For more information on the HPR rule, visit

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