Archive for July, 2013

Chicago-Mac Wrapup

The start of Chicago Yacht Club’s 105th Race to Mackinac was a pretty impressive sight, with over 300 boats milling around waiting for their start sequence. Spar Wars III got off to a decent start in Section 7 and chose to take the left side of her fleet, hoping for a bit of a thermal effect along the Wisconsin shore. After an uneventful night we were still within sight of most of our competitors when the wind started to die. This began about two and a half days of bobbing around in zero to three knots of wind, blazing sun, and clouds of vicious horseflies and mosquitoes, with intervening periods of light breeze, barely long enough to put up an adequate sail and get a few precious boat lengths ahead. On Monday evening, exhausted, short on potable water, and seeing we were far from being able to put enough of a lead on our competitors to score a respectable place (we were the second scratch boat – and the smallest in the race), we turned into Boyne City, the boat’s home port.

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I was a little bummed to miss out on the Mac’s finish, which is arguably the coolest part of the race: reaching through the tight notch of Grays Reef with boats all around, then running down the Strait of Mackinac and under the gigantic bridge to the little island still resolutely stuck in Victorian times. But I did enjoy the great hospitality of Spar Wars’ skipper Bruce in Boyne City, then caught a ferry to the island to deliver the J/33 Retriever back to Chicago. Inevitably, the wind blew right on the nose for a couple days, but after a couple relaxing stops in scenic Northern Michigan, we had an uneventful trip home. Some of the boats that left a little behind us got hit by some big thunderstorms, but we only saw a few showers with no real wind.

Despite the annoying weather, this Chicago-Mac was an enjoyable and valuable experience. I got to crew with some talented sailors, meet some very interesting and friendly people, and see a part of the country I didn’t know at all. And I spent a fair bit of time observing the formation of thunderstorms and tracking them on radar. Although we avoided almost all of them, the sailors on both Spar Wars III and Retriever told me stories of 100-knot wind bursts in past Macs. I consider 35 to be about as much as I ever want to see on an Olson 30, so 100 sounds absurd.

I’m now on a plane to California to look into work opportunities, and the sailing continues next week with a Portland-Seattle delivery.

And now for some lake racing…

I’ve been invited to do the Chicago-Mackinac race on the Olson 30 Spar Wars 3. At almost 300 miles, it’s one of the longest freshwater races around, and I’m pretty stoked. Start is Saturday (tomorrow) around noon Chicago time. You can track us here.

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