Storm disrupts Chicago Mackinac Race
Published on July 16th, 2017
Following the start of the 42-boat Cruising Division on July 14, the balance of the 301 entrants in the 109th Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac got underway Saturday, July 15 for the 289.4 nm course from the Chicago Lighthouse, just off Navy Pier, to Mackinac Island.
Photos of the Racing Division start by Michele Almeida – MISTE Photography
After the Racing Divisions began in light WSW winds, a building SE breeze pushed the fleet northward up Lake Michigan, but all eyes were on a severe thunderstorm watch for parts of Wisconsin. While the storm was not anticipated to impact the fleet, special marine warnings for some discrete cells soon began over Lake Michigan.
The Saturday night report expected the front to cross the entire lake by Sunday morning (July 16), with the racers making great progress in pre-frontal southerly winds, shifting to the north by morning with strong winds and big seas expected.
Apparently, conditions exceeded expectations. The Corsair 31 High Priority 2, in the multi-hull fleet, capsized late Saturday night, with all four crew safely rescued via a small boat launched from the Cutter Biscayne Bay. At last count on Sunday, 50 boats had officially retired in the Racing Division, with five more in the Cruising Division.
Among the retirees was Doug DeVos’ Max Z86 Windquest, with Farley Fontenot describing the scene. “We had quite the night. We had the A2 spinnaker up at 10:30p. Our group was off watch when all of a sudden the boats was pretty violent and we could hear the on watch hollering to try and get the chute down.
“They called for all hands, and just as we heard the call, she went over. We were down for at least 45 seconds before she came up. David Tank then went to out on the prod and spiked the tack, and in the take down process we shredded the A2. Windspeed 42 knots.
“At 3:00a, wind shifted and we needed to reef. Reefing the boat is not easy, but we mapped it out and tried for 30 minutes to no avail. The main would not go on the lock. We send Tank to the top of the rig where he told us the headboard car was demolished. We took the main down, worked for hours but no luck. We retired from the race.”
Elsewhere on the course, David and Kim Hoff’s Beneteau 10R Nirvana had their hands full as well. “We were having a great race and then around 10pm we witnessed an amazing lightning show in the distance,” reports crew Christopher Beckwith. “Within two hours wind had increased to about 45knots and over we went. We got the boat back upright and we worked to take down our #2 chute and struggled in the wind, losing it over the side.
“We managed to retrieve it and then attempted to reef the main. We then decided in the building wind with gusts in the 50’s, to drop he main. I still had steerage at six knots under bare poles. As the breeze settled out and the wind subsided we put in a reef and reduced jib.
“Continuing on, four hours later I came back on watch and took the wheel in washing machine conditions. Under reef and a reduced jib we worked our way upwind in 25-30 knots of breeze. Then, a loud bang and the furler blew up, immediately overpowering the boat.
“We coasted for a few minutes, catching out breath and attempting a repair. In 8-10 foot seas and 30 knots of breeze and a 33′ boat, it’s no easy task. The crew was beat. The boat was broken. We were all cold wet and dehydrated. It was nothing short of a day at the water park in ice cold water, fully clothed. We made the decision to pull into Pentwater and get a good meal.”
The first finisher in the Cruising Division was Joseph S Haas’ Hanse 630e Infinite Diversion, finishing at 07:28:51. Chicago Yacht Club Commodore Leif Sigmond and Past Commodore Joseph Haas, Owner & Skipper of Infinite Diversion, talk about being the first boat to finish the 109th Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac.
Source: Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac