Countdown to the 110th CYC Race
to Mackinac - July 21, 2018




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Race to Mackinac

Questions And Answers

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 oldest annual freshwater 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.

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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.

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How many boats participate?
There were 320 boats and approximately 3,200 crew members in the 2012 Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac. Participation is by invitation only from the Chicago Yacht Club. 

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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.

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What is the record for the fastest race?
Pyewacket, owned and skippered 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.

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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. 

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How does the race start?
The fleet is divided into groups or sections based on rating. Each section is comprised of 8-30 boats of similar ratings. Each section starts the race at a specific time. The Cruising Division will begin at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, July 10th and the rest of the fleet starts at 11:30 a.m. on July 11th and continues 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.

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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.

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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.

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What is an Island Goat?
Racers who compete in 25 Mackinac races are invited to join the exclusive "Island Goats 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 Goats Sailing Society was established by Hobart "Red" Olson in 1959, and 2009 marked the 50th anniversary for the IGSS. Island goats have raced at least 8,325 miles from Chicago to Mackinac Island. For a list of all goats, go to

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Where does the race start?
 The race starts off of the Chicago light house. For more information on the course, click here.

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What rating system is used for the Mac?
The Mac uses the Offshore Racing Rule (ORR) to handicap boats.  All boats entering, in any division, must obtain an ORR handicap. The ORR relies on an objective handicap to equalize boats of various sizes and equipment, allowing crew performance to govern results.
Skippers considering entering the Race should contact the Offshore Office of US Sailing as soon as possible to start the process of obtaining an ORR rating, as it can be time consuming.

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What does double handed mean?
 Boats racing in the Double Handed Division race with only two crew members.

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If we want to watch the finish on the Island, when do you expect the first finishers to appear?
 Unfortunately there is no way to tell for sure. Boats arrive as early as Sunday afternoon and as late as Wednesday.

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What is the average boat size/length.
Monohull boats must be at least 26 feet length overall (LOA) to be considered for an invitation. Each year, boats from that size up to 86 feet or larger race. There is a cluster of boats in the 35-45 foot LOA range, so that is probably the most typical boat.

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Can Canadian citizens go in the Race?
Every year, we welcome Canadian boats in the Race. We have had competitors from around the world as well as around the US, from as far away as Hong Kong, enter the Race. 

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How do I request an invitation for the race?
 All requests for invitation are initiated through our website.
Click here to be taken to the appropriate page.

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