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to Mackinac - July 18, 2020




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Race to Mackinac Trophies

There are many ways to tell the "story" of the Chicago-Mackinac Race, but one of them surely is to give voice to some of the lore behind its trophies.
Left: The Mackinac Cup, est. 1906; Right: The Chicago-Mackinac Trophy, est. 1927
     Mac-history_pic000E_preview         Mac-history_pic000F_preview


Every Trophy Tells a Story

The crew of Diavolo, owned by Pete Stern, Jr., celebrate their 1967 victory by having some champagne out of the silver cup.
Perhaps the most famous of the Chicago-
Mackinac Race trophies is the Mackinac Cup. An April 23, 1906 article in the Chicago Tribune bore the headline "Mackinac Cup is Welcomed" and recounted that "yachtsmen and prominent summer residents of Mackinac are completing plans for raising a fund for a magnificent $1,000 cup, to be hung up as a perpetual challenge emblem for the Mackinac cruise of the Chicago Yacht Club. The sum of money is nearly completed, and silversmiths are preparing designs suitable for the purpose to submit to the committee … The Chicago Yacht Club officials and members are enthusiastic over the announcement, and should the northern yachtsmen fail to raise sufficient funds, no doubt is felt the local yachtsmen will go to their assistance."
In fact, the Mackinac Cup was purchased in 1906 by subscription among residents of Mackinac Island and yachtsmen organized by Eugene Sullivan, Ernest Puttkammer and Dr. W.L. Baum. More than $1,500 worth of silver was used in fashioning the design.
A Chicago Tribune article on July 6, 1906 – the day of the start of the "third annual race to the northern port" – detailed the thought of the trophy committee in selecting its design: "When  Commodore Baum and the rest of the committee selected designs for the trophy, the idea was that it should be emblematic not only of water sports, but of the locality which it commemorates. Mackinac Island, which has for years been the great trading post of the Indians and abounds in Indian lore and romance, caused it to seem appropriate that something commemorative of its history should be perpetuated in the trophy.The design accepted brings out this idea. It represents a war canoe. This is flanked on all sides by massive Indian heads."
The Cup, which was made in Chicago, was expected to be complete several days after the start of the 1906 contest. The Mackinac Cup was the only permanent trophy for the Mackinac Race until 1927, when the Chicago-Mackinac Trophy was donated by Commodore Woodruff. The Trophy symbolized the end of an acute squabble between cruising and racing yachtsmen.
Godfrey H. Atkin, another one of the original donors to the fund for purchasing the Mackinac Cup, has been quoted as reminding Chicago Yacht Club members that this trophy was purchased by "passing the hat," and that it was intended for cruising boats, which at the time were attempting to ensure that Chicago Yacht Club affairs "are not dominated by a clique of racing sailors." Contemporaneous newspaper articles suggest the allure of the association with cruising: "the distance of the Mackinac Cup Yacht Race makes the fixture compare favorably with the long ocean cruises which recently have been attracting the attention of the yachting world."
The cruisers and the "clique of racing sailors" ultimately made peace, and The Lake Michigan Yachting News of May 1927 proclaimed "Mackinac Squabble Ended" in its headline and giddily reported that "Well, sailors, here we are with the extra, three star, final news on the great Mackinac fight, which, like Melba’s farewell tour, has played its positively last engagement. Two divisions, two cups, everyone satisfied (at least they said they were) and the hatchet finally buried forever."
The Chicago-Mackinac Trophy was patterned after a large pottery vase made by the Chippewa Indians. The decorations on the bowl were meant by the Indians to represent an Indian townsite. The small decoration on the bowl is the honor badge of Odjib’we, one of the great leaders of the Chippewa warriors. The column supporting the bowl is typical of an Indian support and on either side of the column are figures of Chippewa Indians with their typical bows and arrows.
The Trophy incorporates the seals of the State of Illinois and the State of Michigan and includes turtles to invoke the original name of Mackinac Island, Michimackinac, a word that means "great turtle."
As the most coveted awards in the trophy collection, the Mackinac Cup and the Chicago-Mackinac Trophy are rotated between the two monohull divisions as the top prize for best corrected time. Competitors and rating rules have changed over the years, but the tradition of serving competitors champagne from the bowl is a tradition that has endured.
The Mac has grown exponentially since those early years, and 2008 is a record year for the Race, with not only a record number of entries, but also a record number of sections. Providing a trophy to permanently recognize each section winner requires an "all hands call" on the trophy collection. In years with fewer entries, some trophies may be placed on standby status. That will not be the case in 2008, when not only will all be awarded, but several recent acquisitions will join the ranks. New this year are suitable silvery spoils that have been named for some of the most recognizable points along the course: the Sables, Isle Au Galets, Point Betsie and the Manitou Passage. They have been hand engraved to provide appropriate permanent recognition of the winner and perhaps conjure up recollection of a moment of serenity or endurance.
The assignment of section trophies is rotated every year, giving winners an opportunity to be memorialized on different items in the collection. You can stand in wonder at our precious metal in our trophy cases at both the Monroe Street and Belmont Avenue Clubhouses. You will find designs commemorating Little Traverse Bay, the shapeliness of the Sirens and Native American scouts. Names of accomplished sailors and past commodores personalize a number of trophies. All will be removed from the cabinets, engraved and placed on display at the Mackinac Awards Banquet in November.
Certain trophies have permanent purposes. This year marks the introduction of the Vanenna Cup, a trophy that is being named after the winner of the first race in 1898 and will be used this years as the Cruising Division Trophy. The Royono Trophy is awarded to the first monohull to finish. Give to Chicago Yacht Club out of frustration by Detroit industrialist John B. Ford, Jr., who was first to finish four times but never on corrected time, the trophy carries names of the larger and faster yachts. You will find Ted Turner among the winners. Roy Disney set the current record of 23 hours and 30 minutes, while 78 hours was a winning time one year, a testament to endurance rather than speed.
The Martin Rieck Trophy is awarded to the first multihull to finish. It has been presented only since 1998, when it was donated by Harken in honor of the company’s sales manager, a renowned multihull sailor. Though among the newest prizes, it already honors significant accomplishments, most notably adventurer Steve Fosset’s course record of 18 hours and 50 minutes, set on Stars and Stripes in 1998.
The 19-inch long silver replica of United States Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, the Coast Guard’s largest and longest serving ship, is the Jack Ritchie Trophy, presented by friends of Jack L. Ritchie Jr. in 1954. The plaque on the trophy is engraved "Jack Ritchie Trophy/Chicago Mackinac Race in Memory of Robert J. Ritchie 1954." The trophy was executed by Knut L. Gustafson, recognized as one of Chicago’s leading modern metalsmiths of that period.
On the wall of the Mackinac Bar you will find a bronze plaque with the windy name of the Sheldon Clark – Aaron DeRoy Chicago Detroit Mackinac Trophy, awarded at times in the past for the Port Huron to Chicago races and most recently for its original purpose of recognizing the best overall corrected time in the Chicago and Bayview Mackinac Races.
Next to the Clark-DeRoy Trophy is a fine piece of taxidermy that has nothing to do with the Chicago Cubs curse but is a trophy bestowed by the Island Goat Sailing Society to the Fastest Goat to the Island. The names of some of the most recognizable yachtspersons to walk our docks are inscribed on this award.
Sail safely, but it is a race! The silver awaits the winners.
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