Preview of #AmericasOffshoreChallenge

Published on June 21st, 2018

The 110th Chicago Mackinac Race has attracted 310 boats to take on the best and worst along the northerly 289nm course through Lake Michigan. The Cruising Division begins Friday, July 20 while the Racing Division sets sail Saturday, July 21.

More than 2,500 sailors from 39 states and 16 countries will tackle America’s Offshore Challenge™, racing on boats ranging from 29-foot family cruisers to 86-foot, state-of-the-art carbon-fiber machines.

Warriors ready
The 15-strong Warrior 53 crew is a combination of graduates from the Warrior Sailing Program and professional sailors and coaches. The program provides maritime education and outreach for wounded service members and injured veterans, and the race represents the culmination of the Warriors’ Great Lakes summer campaign.

“Thanks to their great work ethic, an effective educational program, and a few special modifications made to our Farr 53 race boat to support wounded warrior crew members, this team is racing to win,” said Program Director Ben Poucher. “Sailing is an outlet for warriors to express their most natural assets: teamwork and competitive drive. We are competing to bridge the gap between the civilian sailing community and the 275 warriors who have already graduated from our program.”

Warrior 53 will start on July 21 in Section 1.

Mise En Place

Diversity embraced
Nearly 50 boats in the Cruising Division will start July 20 in the fastest-growing division of the race. Among them is the Beneteau Oceanis 381 Mise En Place, owned by Paul Thompson, past commodore of Chicago’s Jackson Park Yacht Club (JPYC) and nine-time Mac competitor.

Joining Thompson on board for her seventh race to Mackinac is Karen Harris, current commodore of JPYC and a lawyer in Chicago. A lifelong sailor, she loves the Mac Race for its competitive challenge and camaraderie, but also hopes the Mise En Place crew, which is predominantly African American and almost half female, serves as an inspiration to minorities and females.

“Sailing is still one of the sports in which minorities and women are underrepresented,” Harris said. “It’s a privilege to be able to inspire African-American women and kids like my seven-year-old niece, to get involved in a sport I love. Regardless of whether we make the podium or not, just by being on the water and a part of this Race we’re achieving one of our goals.”

Merlin at start of 2018 Newport Bermuda. Photo Credit: Daniel Forster/PPL

Magic returns
Merlin, the Bill Lee-designed 68-foot sled is traveling to the Great Lakes to compete in this year’s edition under a new owner and with major refits, but with the same goal: an overall win.

Chip Merlin, Merlin’s new owner, is on a mission to race in all the major offshore races around the globe. He and his father have already ticked off the first on the list in the just-completed Newport Bermuda race.

“The Chicago to Mackinac Race is an iconic, premier long-distance race,” said Merlin, who lives in Florida and has a law office in Chicago. “While some people may correctly note we are lake sailing, all serious sailors know this race is among the top yacht races in the United States, if not the world.”

In the past two years, Merlin has undergone an extensive refit, from removing the canting keel for a deeper draft keel, shedding interior finishes, and upgraded electronics and communications for improved navigation and safety. The result, according to Merlin, is a return to its original ultralight concept.

Merlin will be crewed by many of the same sailors who competed in Newport Bermuda but will also be joined by experienced Great Lakes and Mac sailors, including Race Chair Sarah Renz.

“I’m excited to join Chip and his talented crew in the Mac race,” said Renz. “It’s a great way to get to the Island after the year-long effort to organize the Race.”

Merlin is racing in the Turbo Division, which starts on July 21.

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About the Chicago Yacht Club Race to MackinacⓇ: “America’s Offshore Challenge™”
The Chicago Yacht Club Race to MackinacⓇ presented by Wintrust is one of the world’s biggest annual offshore regattas, drawing top-notch sailing talent from around America and the World. Known as ‘The Mac’ to everyone in the region, the ultimate test of Great Lakes navigation starts each July just off Chicago’s Navy Pier. Passing through some of the most beautiful coastal waters in the world on the 333-statute mile (289 nm) race route, the fleet faces the storms, reefs, calms, and competition that truly make it “America’s Offshore Challenge™.

Source: Laura Muma

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