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to Mackinac - July 13, 2019




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Flying Buffalo is Four-Time Division Winner While Natalie J Swoops the Mackinac Cup

CHICAGO, IL & MACKINAC ISLAND, MI (July 25, 2016): Al and Bob Declercq’s Flying Buffalo won the Mackinac Trophy Division of the 108th Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac presented by Wintrust. Flying Buffalo is now a four-time winner. Al and Bob are the sons of the designer and first owner of the boat. They previously won the race overall in 1966, 1967 and 1969.
Even as early as the start of the Race, crew member Nathan Hollerbach proclaimed that the boat was on the hunt to break records via a tweet reading, "Tune in Chicago… history in the making - Flying Buffalo going for our fourth ever overall victory in the #chicagomacrace. The most ever!"
The 108th running of the Race was anything but dull. Squall lines bore down on the fleet for most of Saturday through Sunday early afternoon causing 22 boats to drop out and one boat to sink. "Of my 31 Races to Mackinac, this was one of the most difficult. We experienced intense rain, thunder, lightning, and very challenging wind conditions. It really put skippers and crews to the test," said Chicago Yacht Club Commodore Greg Miarecki. "The 108th Race to Mackinac will not soon be forgotten."
Flying Buffalo completed the race in 46 hours 52 minutes and corrected an hour ahead of second place Providence. The two boats were playing chess with each other for the entirety of the Race being almost in shouting distance at times. Declercq went on to say, "Once this race turned downwind, we didn’t play any risks. Just go right down the pipe of the race course because it’s our conditions. In this race, we couldn’t have gotten more perfect conditions."
Fellow Bayview Yacht Club boat Natalie J won the Mackinac Cup Division and Turbo Section with a speedy time of 26 hours 15 minutes; Phil O’Neil’s fastest Chicago Mac Race. The O’Neil’s Transpac 52 is a first-time division winner, but have won the Bayview Mackinac Race overall four times. O’Neil sailed up the Wisconsin shoreline for approximately 100 miles before he started crossing Lake Michigan while Bob Hughes’ Heartbreaker was caught in a hole on the rhumb line. "The whole plan was to leverage our position to the left of [Heartbreaker]," explained O’Neil. "We were all the way up to Sheboygan before we cut across the lake!"
The Detroit TP52 snuck inside the Manitous and appeared to be losing ground to Heartbreaker as Hughes hugged the western shores of the islands. Heartbreaker’s flyer looked to pay in dividends as they sped up 5 knots over Natalie J, but hard as they tried, the hole in the rhumb line was dragging them down.
Natalie J rounded the North Light Buoy 8NM ahead of Heartbreaker before making their run for the finish. "It was the wettest Mac I’ve ever done," said O’Neil. It also happened to be the TP52’s fastest Mac annihilating their 2011 record by four hours. "We only had to tack once Natalie J’s top-notch crew was comprised of Olympian Bora Gulari, Patrick Drummond, Ryan Gardner, Jay Hansen, Chris Higgins, Todd Jones, Geoffrey Kimmel, Philip O’Neil III, Philip O’Neil IV, Matt Otenbaker, Curtis Rozelle, Fred Rozelle.
About Chicago Yacht Club
Chicago Yacht Club is one of the oldest and most respected yacht clubs in the world. Today, the club boasts a membership of nearly 1,500 boating enthusiasts and is one of the preeminent organizers of regattas, races and predicted-log events in the United States. The club offers an array of spectacular off-the-water amenities, including fine dining and full-service catering at both its Monroe and Belmont stations. The club has dedicated itself to promoting the sport and perpetuating the values of camaraderie and community since 1875. Learn more at
About the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac
At 333 miles (289.4 nautical miles), the Race to Mackinac is one of the world’s longest running freshwater distance races. ‘The Mac’ starts at the Chicago Lighthouse just east of Navy Pier and continues to Mackinac Island, MI. The Race can be followed online via Facebook, Twitter (#CYCRTM) and the race tracking app – YB Tracking. See more at

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Morgan Kinney
Communications Director, Chicago Yacht Club


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