Overall Winners Confirmed for Chicago Mackinac Race

Published on July 25th, 2016

(July 25, 2016) – Al and Bob Declercq’s Flying Buffalo won the Mackinac Trophy Division of the 108th Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac presented by Wintrust. Flying Buffalo is now a four-time winner. Al and Bob are the sons of the designer and first owner of the boat. They previously won the race overall in 1966, 1967 and 1969.

Even as early as the start of the Race, crew member Nathan Hollerbach proclaimed that the boat was on the hunt to break records via a tweet reading, “Tune in Chicago… history in the making – Flying Buffalo going for our fourth ever overall victory in the #chicagomacrace. The most ever!”

The 108th running of the Race was anything but dull. Squall lines bore down on the fleet following the start on Saturday through Sunday afternoon (July 23-24) causing 22 of the 318 starters to drop out and one boat to sink. “We got a lot of squalls; I’ve never seen so many squalls – 10-12 of them for us,” said Bob Declercq.

Flying Buffalo completed the race in 46 hours 52 minutes and corrected an hour ahead of second place Providence. The two boats were playing chess with each other for the entirety of the Race being almost in shouting distance at times. Declercq went on to say, “Once this race turned downwind, we didn’t play any risks. Just go right down the pipe of the race course because it’s our conditions. In this race, we couldn’t have gotten more perfect conditions.”

Fellow Bayview Yacht Club boat Natalie J won the Mackinac Cup Division and Turbo Section with a speedy time of 26 hours 15 minutes; Phil O’Neil’s fastest Chicago Mac Race. The O’Neil’s Transpac 52 is a first-time division winner, but have won the Bayview Mackinac Race overall four times.

O’Neil sailed up the Wisconsin shoreline for approximately 100 miles before he started crossing Lake Michigan while Bob Hughes’ Heartbreaker was caught in a hole on the rhumb line. “The whole plan was to leverage our position to the left of [Heartbreaker],” explained O’Neil. “We were all the way up to Sheboygan before we cut across the lake!”

The Detroit TP52 snuck inside the Manitous and appeared to be losing ground to Heartbreaker as Hughes hugged the western shores of the islands. Heartbreaker’s flyer looked to pay in dividends as they sped up 5 knots over Natalie J, but hard as they tried, the hole in the rhumb line was dragging them down.

Natalie J rounded the North Light Buoy 8 nm ahead of Heartbreaker before making their run for the finish. “It was the wettest Mac I’ve ever done,” said O’Neil. It also happened to be the TP52’s fastest Mac annihilating their 2011 record by four hours. “We only had to tack once Natalie J’s top-notch crew was comprised of Olympian Bora Gulari, Patrick Drummond, Ryan Gardner, Jay Hansen, Chris Higgins, Todd Jones, Geoffrey Kimmel, Philip O’Neil III, Philip O’Neil IV, Matt Otenbaker, Curtis Rozelle, and Fred Rozelle.

Joining the overall winners were Ryan Johnson’s Sabre 402 Perico in the Cruising Division and Ryan And Todd Howe’s Farrier F-25C Panic Button in the Multihull Division.

The ORMA 60 Arete, which was looking to shatter the elapsed time record before hitting the Straits of Mackinac, took line honors. While falling short of beating Steve Fossett’s 18 hour 50 minute record, Arete set a personal best by finishing in 23:01:09. “We only short-reefed late once, and that was enough,” said Rick Warner. “Our crew did a wonderful job of playing the squalls, so we could get on top of them or underneath them and take the wind.”

The Arete crew was all hands on deck for the entirety of the Race with little time to rest or eat. Challenging conditions in high winds and big waves were followed up by a stall-out in the Straits of Mackinac before a crawl upwind to the finish.

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About the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac
At 333 miles (289.4 nautical miles), the Race to Mackinac is one of the world’s longest running freshwater distance races. ‘The Mac’ started on July 22 (Cruising Division) and July 23 (All other Divisions) at the Chicago Lighthouse just east of Navy Pier and continues to Mackinac Island, MI. The race’s two historic trophies, the Chicago-Mackinac Trophy and the Mackinac Cup, are presently alternated between the larger and the smaller monohull yacht divisions under ORR.

Source: Chicago Yacht Club

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