Lightning, strong winds hit Chicago Mackinac Race
Published on July 26th, 2022
In a race that will be remembered as “one for the books,” the 113th Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac presented by Wintrust is a wrap after staggered starts on July 22 and 23 in Chicago, IL.
And while this year’s 289 nm race didn’t break any official records other than the number of Lake Michigan lightning strikes late on July 23, it was one of the overall fastest races in recent years. By the time the Grand Hotel Porch Party ended the following evening, nearly all of the 33 boats in the Cruising Division had finished; and half of the turbo boats in Section 1 were drying out their gear.
Race chair Sam Veilleux raced on board Dakota, a Beneteau 47.7 co-owned by Steve Sickler and Ray Groble III. They were the second cruising boat to finish after 1:17:34:55, following in Peter Thornton’s 104-foot ketch, Whitehawk, which earned the Royono Trophy as the first monohull boat to finish after 1:13:44:13. On board was 94-year-old Gene McCarthy, who claimed a new Mac record for the most races ever sailed at 67.
“What a delight to be on a boat longer than my age,” joked McCarthy.
“This year proved yet again why the Mac is America’s Offshore Challenge,” said Veilleux. “And what a tough, fun, exciting challenge it turned out to be. Congratulations to everyone who was so well prepared for the expected weather, competed hard and joined us to celebrate a race to remember.”
The night time storms on July 23 wrecked sailors’ nerves, but the fleet’s consensus was all the safety preparation, practice and pre-set plans came into effect. “We expect storms in the summer here in the Midwest,” said Natalie J’s owner Philip O’Neil IIl, whose TP 52 was the first race boat to finish after 1:05:04:51.
“We took our main down when it hit 40 knots; and saw 69 knots at one point. The team had already talked through the scenarios so when it happened everyone knew what their job was. It was a big deal, but it wasn’t a big deal; everyone jumped in and did what they planned on doing. When it was over, we got back to racing.”
Not every boat fared quite as well as Natalie J. In total, out of the 244 registered, 29 boats retired or chose to withdraw, reasons ranging from the impending weather, shredded sails, equipment failures, and minor injuries.
In its inaugural race, the Wintrust Sailing Team earned a section win in the Beneteau 40.7 class. “It was everything and more than I could have expected for my first distance race,” said Rich Murphy of Wintrust, “What an incredible experience to do this with our team.”
Across the Cruising and Racing Divisions, 20 sections received their podium flags. Winning the overall Chicago-Mackinac Trophy for best overall large boat (typically 40 feet and above) was the J/120 Proof owned by Michael Fozo and Robin Kendrick of Grosse Point Farms, MI; and the Mackinac Cup winner (awarded to those under 40 feet) was the Tartan 10 Erica, owned by Brian Kaczor of Chicago, IL.