If the Cruising Division’s start is any indication of what’s to come, the 2500 sailors competing in the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac® (CYCRTM) presented by Wintrust are in for a heck of a ride. A series of squalls rolled through the three sections during their 3pm start, causing knockdowns and ripped spinnakers underneath an impressive shelf cloud.
According to the official YB Race tracker, Joe Haas’ and his crew currently lead all cruising division competitors aboard the big Hanse 630 Infinite Diversion with the entire fleet running downwind at speeds between 6 and 10 knots. They’ll stick to the rhumbline between Chicago and Grey’s Reef for as long as possible to gain as much Northerly progress as they can before a deep low pressure system moves across the lake tonight, and fans tracking the fleet can expect most of the boats to head toward the Michigan shoreline when the new Northerly winds come in.
"The optimal route for this race runs fairly well out into the center of Lake Michigan, but that’s going to be a very uncomfortable place to be," said world-renowned sailing meteorologist Chris Bedford in his official race forecast.
Bedford expects much of both the racing and cruising fleets to seek relief from the worst of the forecast waves on the Michigan coast. "The winds will be lighter up against the beaches on the Eastern shore of the lake, but a shift to the right and relief from the sea state will make it an attractive option for many of the navigators."
"Those that can brave the worst of the predicted 4-6 foot seas with the occasional eight-footer might have the best chance to come out on top, but it only takes one big wave to end a race.
At the time of publication, Mike Evans’ Jeanneau 49 Pommes Frites leads Cruising 1 on handicap, while David Ormesher’s Jasmin leads Cruising 2. Matt and Stephanie’s Nurre’s Obsession found better breeze on the right side of the course, and they currently lead Cruising 3.
You can watch the official weather briefing and skipper’s meeting as streamed live this afternoon at this link.