Preparing for a buster to Mackinac

Published on July 19th, 2018

Chicago, IL (July 19, 2018) – Known as “America’s Offshore Challenge™,” the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac® (CYCRTM) presented by Wintrust is shaping up to be all of that and more for its 110th year. With potentially fierce northerly conditions forecast, race organizers are emphasizing preparation and safety for the 306 registered competitors.

“If current models hold, strong northerly winds will be smack in the middle of our race course as a result of a stationary low-pressure system over Michigan,” said Sarah Renz, CYCRTM chair. “Sailors should prepare for some wet and wild upwind conditions for the first part of the race. Lake Michigan can deliver big seas and some of the most challenging conditions. It will be a tough race, but we hope everyone races hard, stays safe, has fun and we will see you up at the Island.”

The Cruising Division begins tomorrow while the Racing Division sets sail July 21. From professionally sailed 86-foot carbon fiber racing machines to 29-foot family cruisers, all boats sail 333 statute miles (289nm) north towards the finish at iconic Mackinac Island.

In the Turbo section, few sailing teams have been as successful in recent years than Peter and David Askew’s Wizard. The talented team has a nearly unbroken win streak that started when they took the top trophy for the CYCRTM last July.

The team on board the Reichel Pugh 74 followed that victory up with an incredible string of wins in the Sydney to Hobart Race, the Key West Race, Newport Bermuda Race, and just last week earned a class win in the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race.

In his first race since finishing the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, Team Vestas 11th Hour Skipper Charlie Enright joins Wizard for a second year to help defend their title.

“The team’s pretty similar to last year and with guys like Phil Harmer, Marco Constant, Chris Larson, really the entire crew is as good as it gets,” he said. “My job is just to show up, sail hard, and try not to upset the apple cart.”

He added that there are, “few things as enjoyable as racing on Lake Michigan. Fresh water as clear as any in the world, a sprint-type race full of adrenaline, and great people in a great part of the world.”

However, don’t discount the mighty monster of the Great Lakes, Il Mostro, that was brought to Lake Michigan specifically to win this race and set records – in fact the Volvo 70 holds the outright (non-race) course speed record for the fastest time from Chicago to Mackinac Island.

Few people know Lake Michigan better than Harbor Springs native and Volvo Ocean Race competitor George Peet (2005, ABN AMRO 2), a trimmer aboard the 53-foot Talisman in Section 1. Peet thinks no one can touch Il Mostro in big upwind conditions.

“If they can keep it together, they’ll be hard to beat,” said Peet, although he’s not ruling out that the overall winner could come from his class. “If the breeze stays as Northerly as most of the models show, the winner is going to be the team that can keep their boat and crew in one piece, sail the lifted tack, and make the right decision in the Manitou Islands.”

While the current forecast favors the larger, professionally crewed boats, some of the one-design fleets could easily provide a ‘spoiler’ team. In fact, 40 percent of the boats competing in the Racing Division are in one-design sections.

Randy Draftz is crew on the J/111 Misty and said their section – the biggest one-design fleet in the race – might be the one to watch. “With the J/111 North American Championship in Macatawa Bay, Mich., next month and the Worlds here in Chicago in 2019, the fleet is really stepping its game up here on the Lakes,” said Draftz.

Draftz sees the J/111 as an ideal upwind boat – if they can get out of the big waves. “The boat’s big advantage is its really narrow tacking angles and great upwind speed, but not if we’re struggling over eight-foot waves,” he explained, adding that the race might just be decided in the Manitous. “Whoever gets the layline right to put them on the correct side of the Manitou Passage is going to come out smelling like roses,” said Draftz.

The Tartan 10 class is Chicago’s largest native one-design fleet and continues to be one of the largest one-design Race sections. According to Nancy Snyder, skipper of Cheap Thrill, the T10 fleet has great camaraderie, but don’t let the friendships fool you, it’s quite competitive.

”There are a number of T10s that have won the section in the recent past that would be contenders again this year, but never discount the T10 who may win despite never having been on the podium before!”

With 306 boats registered among 23 Sections across the Racing and Cruising Divisions, the predicted forecast may well play the largest part in determining winners.

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Background: The Cruising Division starts on July 20 with the Racing Division in the 110th Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac getting underway July 21 for the 289.4 nm course from the Chicago Lighthouse, just off Navy Pier, to Mackinac Island.

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