2008 Marks 100th Running for Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac
The world’s longest annual freshwater distance race kicks off July 19, 2008

For the 100th time since 1898, sailors will gather in Chicago to begin the 333 mile sailing race to Mackinac Island, Mich. The Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, presented by Lands’ End, is one of the oldest and most prestigious freshwater sailing races, and attracts some of the best sailors in the world. The race kicks off July 19, 2008.

“The Mac,” as the race is affectionately known, will host 460 boats a record entrance with approximately 5,000 sailors competing in this world class sporting event. Although the Mac remains primarily an amateur event, this race has a proven track record of attracting some of the finest sailing talent in the sport. Record holders include renowned sailor Roy Disney with his monohull Pyewacket at 23 hours, 30 minutes and 34 seconds in 2002, and famous adventurer the late Steve Fosset on Stars and Stripes, which set the multihull record of 18 hours, 50 minutes, and 32 seconds in 1998. We will see both record holders back in 2008; Roy Disney will serve as the honorary chairman of the race and Stars and Stripes will compete again, skippered by Chicagoan Don Wilson.

In addition to the record number of competitor entries and the promise of exciting competition, all 460 boats will the tracked by GPS satellite technology this year, the largest offshore sailing fleet on record ever to be tracked. This technology enables friends, families, and everyone on shore to follow the race as it unfolds on the web.

Chicago Yacht Club is proud to host this world-famous event in sailing, and welcomes you to follow all of the action this July. To learn more about the 100th running of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, go to the official website at www.chicagoyachtclub.org/racetomackinac.

Race to Mackinac Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the race?

333 statute miles (289.4 nautical miles) from Chicago, starting just off Navy Pier, to Mackinac Island, Michigan. It is the longest annual freshwater sailing distance race in the world. The boats cross the finish line between the lighthouse on Round Island and the race committee trailer on Mackinac Island

When was the first Race to Mackinac?

The first Mac Race was held in 1898 as an informal race of 5 boats. Vanenna won in 51 hours. The second Mac didn’t come until 1904 and then intermittently until after WWI. Every Year since 1921 has seen the running of the Race to Mackinac. 2008 marks the 100th running.

How many boats participate?

There are usually about 300 boats and 3,000 crew members in the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac. Participation is by invitation from the Chicago Yacht Club. 2008 marks a record number of entrants at 460 boats.

What do the winners receive?

The Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac is an amateur event, so no prize money is awarded. The Section winners will receive a plaque, a flag, and bragging rights for the next year. The overall winners have their names engraved on the permanent trophies that are displayed at Chicago Yacht Club.

What is the record for the fastest race?

Pyewacket, owned and skipped by Roy Disney set the monohull record in 2002 with an elapsed time of 23 hours 30 minutes and 34 seconds. This broke the 14 year record of 25 hours 50 minutes and 44 seconds established by the yacht Pied Piper, a Santa Cruz 70 owned and skippered by Dick Jennings of Evanston, IL. For multihulls, the record of 18 hours 50 minutes and 32 seconds was set in 1998 by Steve Fossett on Stars and Stripes, the catamaran previously sailed by Dennis Conner in the America’s Cup. The race usually takes most of the fleet between 40 and 60 hours to finish.

How can big boats and small boats race against each other?

Boats are handicapped by a series of mathematical rating systems which predict how fast they should be capable of sailing under a variety of conditions. Applying these ratings to each boat’s elapsed time on the racecourse determines which boat sailed the best relative to their rating, and therefore determines the winner. This allows the entire fleet to compete against each other.

How does the race start?

The fleet is divided into groups or sections based on rating. Each section is comprised of 8-28 boats of similar ratings. Each section starts the race at a specific time, beginning at 12:00 PM on July 19th and proceeding every 10 minutes until the last section has started. A cannon is fired at the specific start time for each section.

The objective is to cross the starting line under full sail immediately after the starting gun for your section is fired. Boats crossing the starting line too early are required to turn back and restart, a significant penalty.

What do the boats do at night?

The boats will race around the clock until they reach Mackinac Island; so sailing at night is required. Running lights and lighted instruments are required for navigation and safety. Additionally, the crew will work in shifts, or “watches,” so that there is time for sleeping, eating, etc...

What do the boats do during storms?

Storms are common on Lake Michigan and the boats are required to be equipped to handle them. Generally the procedure calls for shortening sail area and making adjustments to minimizing the chance of damage to the boat, equipment, and crew. The boats will continue to race during storms and many racers may opt for life jackets and safety harnesses for safety.

Stormy Macs: 1970: More than half of the 167 yachts took refuge from northerly winds gusting past 60 mph. Only 79 starters finished. 1937: “Year of the big blow” winds 75 mph; only 8 of 42 boats finished. 1925: Virginia survived to win; only 8 of 21 finished. 1911: Winds reached 80 mph, and the Amorita won in 31:14:30, a record that stood until Dick Jennings Pied Piper topped it in 1987 (25:50:44).

It should, be noted that for the Chicago Race to Mackinac, the Chicago Yacht Club, with the assistance and support of the US Coast Guard and many other support groups, maintains one of the finest safety records in all of sailing.

What is an Island Goat?

Racers who complete 25 Mackinac races are invited to join the exclusive “Island Goat Sailing Society.” Originally named for their appearance, aroma, and behavior upon reaching Mackinac Island, these salty veterans represent an elite chapter in the heritage of the Race to Mackinac. The Island Goat Sailing Society was established by Hobart “Red” Olson in 1950. Island goats have raced at least 8,325 miles from Chicago to Mackinac Island. For a list of all goats, go to www.islandgoats.org.

How can spectators find out where the boats are during the race?

Spectators can logon to www.chicagoyachtclub.org/racetomackinac during the race and click on the “Race Tracking” to watch real time GPS positioning of all 460 boats during the race. Additionally, results will be posted and updated on this website as the racers finish.

2008 Race to Mackinac to be Largest Sailing Fleet Ever Tracked

The Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac is not only the longest annual freshwater sailing race in the world, but for 2008 will also set the mark as the largest offshore sailing fleet ever tracked by GPS. For the first time, Chicago Yacht Club will require all 460 participants in “The Mac” to have a position transponder aboard. Now friends, family and everyone on shore will know exactly where the boats are sailing during the 333 mile race from Chicago to Mackinac Island, Mich. 2008 marks the 100th running of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, which begins Saturday, July 19th.

“Chicago Yacht Club has long been a pioneer in tracking sailboat races. This year, we will take the next step in that journey by placing position transponders on all entered boats. With all boats being tracked, the Mac will truly become a spectator sport. Anyone, whether they are located in Chicago, Mackinac Island, or on the other side of the world, will be able to track the hourly progress of any of the 460 boats,” Greg Miarecki, chair of the 2008 Mackinac Committee remarked. “We are very much looking forward to bringing the excitement of this race to millions of people.”

Tracking efforts like this help make the sport of sailing more community friendly and globally visible. Chicago Yacht Club is proud to make this world-famous event available to the world and welcomes all spectators to join in the action. Access to tracking, information on all of the competitors and race updates for the 100th running of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac are available at the official website at www.chicagoyachtclub.org/racetomackinac.

Over 100 Years of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac

1898 August 6, 1898 five yachts start in the Race from Chicago to Mackinac Island.

1904 The second Race to Mackinac.

1905 First female skipper Miss Evelyn Wright and her all woman crew sailed the sloop Lady Eileen. This was also the year of the slowest race; Mistral’s elapsed time was 94 hours, 10 minutes.

1906 The Mackinac Cup is purchased and adopted as perpetual trophy for the annual Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac.

1908 William Hale Thompson, Mayor of Chicago, entered his 81 foot racing schooner Valmore and the era of the big schooners started.

1909 For the first time in local yachting history, the story of the progress of the yachts in the Race to Mackinac was reported back to Chicago by wireless telegraph.

1911 Commodore Baum's Amorita establishes elapsed time record for the Mackinac race which stood for 76 years at 31 h 14 min 30 sec. This year sailors experienced an 80 mph gale. Vencendor wrecked on the rocks of Fisherman’s Island off Charlevoix. Thankfully, no lives were lost.

1912-1913 As an aftermath of the 1911 race, several owners favored a shorter race ending in Harbor Springs on Little Traverse Bay.

1914 The Mackinac race resumed on its full course, with only five yachts competing. New racing rules allowed the P-Class sloop Olympian to participate, which won the race

1917-1920 Race to Mackinac is suspended during WWI. WWI took away many yachtsmen and put many boats out of commission.

1921 The new Universal rule promoted the P, Q and R class racing yachts and they began to dominate the race

1924 R class sloop Sari wins Mac. She was the only R ever to win a Mackinac race and proved that even the smaller sister of the great Ns, Ps and Qs could stand on her own among the Universals.

One of the most grueling races to date, it was a beat to windward practically the entire distance. Only 8 out of 21 starters finished, 6 were driven back to Chicago in the first 12 hours. The Q sloop Virginia won.

1926 Interestingly, the racing rules changed to a minimum of 8 tons, barring Q and R boats from competition, cited as being too small to compete in the big boat race.

1927 The racing rules were changed to allow for 2 distinct classes of boats, and the second Mac cup was created. The Chicago Mackinac Trophy is presented to Chicago Yacht Club by Commodore George Woodruff in 1927 to satisfy the demands of cruising yachts (sloops, yawls, schooners) for a separate trophy from racing yachts (Qs, Ps, and other Universal rule type boats).

1933 Chimon becomes the first foreign yacht to win the Mackinac, in from the Royal Canadian YC of Toronto, a schooner owned by Henry K. Hill

1936 Race to Mackinac grows up. The race saw 42 yachts, representing 13 clubs. More than a third were new boats.

1937 The Year of the Big Blow. The fleet experiences a 65 mph northwester gale, and out of a fleet of 42, only 8 yachts finish. George Mergenthaler crew on Reverie is rescued by the Coast Guard after being swept overboard

1946 With the End of WWII, the Race to Mackinac flourishes. 1946 saw 53 entries

1948 L.L. “Ole” Karas wins 9th Mac victory as skipper on Cara Mia, plus his 3 wins crewing a record 62 entries, the fastest race since 1911.

1950 Royono Trophy is established awarded for the first to finish. The trophy was established after John B. Ford Jr’s Royono III was the first to finish in four consecutive races from 1946 to 1949, yet was never in first placed based on corrected time.

1952 The beginning of the modern era of offshore racing. The Universal division was eliminated. The cruising and racing/cruising divisions were created and eventually became the IOR Grand Prix and the LMYA divisions

1955 The second slowest race to date since 1898. 77 hours, 52 minutes.

1957 The mighty Mackinac Bridge is erected over the Straits of Mackinac

1960 The Island Goats Sailing Society is established by Hobart “Red” Olson. The Minimum Qualifications for an Island Goat: Raced at least 8,325 miles from Chicago to Mackinac Island, making 25 or more races.

1970 Sailors once again experienced a gale, a northerly knocked 45 on the nose for 16 hours, at night exceeding 60 mph. and out of 167 starters, 88 withdrew. Ted Turner racing his 12-meter America’s Cup Boat, American Eagle, publicly retracts calling Lake Michigan a “mill pond.”

1979 Island Goats Sailing Society admits its first “nanny goat” (female member) Anne Juell.
1983 MHS and IOR are used as the two rating rules

1987 Dick Jennings' Santa Cruz 70, Pied Piper, establishes new elapsed time record for the Mackinac Race. 25:50:44

1993 Motorola lends 12 Motorola Traxar Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to selected yachts in the race as an experiment in helping the Race Committee track the progress of the race.
1993 Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac commemorative red nun buoy marker erected by Island Goats sailing society and dedicated at Windermere point.

1996 An extremely slow race, Pied Piper was the first to finish with a time of nearly 53 hours-more than double the time of her record setting run in 1987.

First time the Mac held and exhibition division for multihulls. Steve Fossett completed the race on Stars and Stripes, one of 2 multihulls built for Dennis Conner’s America’s Cup campaign in the 1980s. Seven multihulls competed in the division.

1998 Chicago Yacht Club celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the First Race to Mackinac. A permanent trophy was offered for first overall based on Multihull PHRF handicaps. Also the Martin. D. Rieck Trophy was presented by Harken Marine family and offered by the Mac Committee as the Multihull First to Finish trophy. Famous adventurer Steve Fossett set the record this year in 18 hours, 50 minutes and 32 seconds in Stars and Stripes.

2000 Real-time positioning on 60 boats, at least 3 yachts in each of 20 sections were equipped with satellite transponders and dedicated GPS receivers that regularly send their exact positions, using SailNet technology. The website sees 100,000 hits.

2002 RaceNet software, developed by Microsoft, tracks the fleet’s progress throughout the race with real-time scoring functionality on 50 transponders. A cold front shifting northerly broke booms, dismasted one boat, capsized the 44 foot multi-hull Caliente, caused at least 15 boats to withdraw and set another record. Roy Disney's Pyewacket breaks 15-year old Mac Race record held by Dick Jennings: 23 hours, 30 minutes.
2003 First year for Americap II rating system as sole handicap scoring system for mohohulls.

2004 55 boats use transponders built by SASCO

2005 Mackinac Committee drafts and launches an on-line entry and race administration program. Also Race to Mackinac becomes a true spectator sport as sophisticated GPS transponders are developed by FlagShip IS. Seventy-five boats pilot test new transponders.

2005 Record number of website hits, 1.3 million.

2006 Mackinac Committee introduces the Chicago-Mackinac Safety Regulation (CMSR) for monohulls and multihulls. This coalesces ISAF, US SAILING and US Coast Guard safety rules into documents that facilitate and improve compliance. The Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac website and Race tracking site saw over 7 million website hits

2007 Website hits reach all all-time high at 20 million. 30% of the fleet is tracked by GPS. Chicago Yacht Club introduces brand new Cruising Division to race.

100th running of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac sees record number of 460 boats entered and race entries close for the first time in history. 2008 also marks the first time there will be 100% GPS coverage of the fleet.

Stars and Stripes Returns to Chicago

Record setting multihull returns to race the 100th Mac

No boat has been able to beat the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac speed record of 18 hours, 50 minutes, and 32 seconds set by Stars and Stripes (US-1) in 1998. The 60-foot catamaran, designed for Dennis Conner’s 1988 America’s Cup Campaign, was skippered by world-famous adventurer Steve Fossett - the first sailor to have multihulls introduced into “The Mac.” His goal? To be the fastest boat in the world’s longest annual freshwater sailing race. Before Fossett’s untimely death, he made speed sailing a specialty, setting 21 official world records and 9 distance race records since 1993. 2008 marks the 100th Running of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, and Fossett’s record-setting vessel Stars and Stripes returns to race on Lake Michigan chartered by Chicagoan Donald Wilson.

Wilson, owner of DRW Holdings, LLC, has been an avid sailor in one-design and match racing competitions throughout the world. “With this year being such a special year in the history of The Mac, we wanted to do something special as well,” Wilson explains on why he chose to charter the famous boat. Wilson has competed in previous Mac’s in the Tartan-10 class; T-10s are 33 foot monohulls that normally take 50-60 hours to finish the 333 mile race. “This year will be a different kind of ride,” Wilson laughed.

When The Mac kicks off July 19, 2008, most of the 460 boat fleet will take between 40 to 60 hours to complete the race. Stars and Stripes, on the other hand, has proven to be the fastest boat in 99 years of Mac races. Nevertheless, Wilson humbly says that beating the record is not his top priority. “Our first priority is to have a safe race and our second is to have fun. I feel we have a great crew put together and we are looking forward to an exciting race.”

Spectators will be able to follow Stars and Stripes’ progress online during the 100th running of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac. The famous multihull along with all of the other boats in the fleet will be tracked by GPS transponders. This technology enables friends, families, and everyone on shore to follow the race as it unfolds on the web. Check out www.chicagoyachtclub.org/racetomackinac for more details.