Memorable Macs

Five sailboats set out from Chicago, beginning what would grow into the longest annual freshwater sailing race in the world. Its second running took place six years later in 1904. After that, it was called off only during World War I.



Gale-force winds took down most of the fleet.  Mavourneen, a 30-foot sloop, was one of only four boats to brave the Straits of Mackinac, winning with a corrected time of 28 hours, 21 minutes. Officials decided a shorter distance would be safer and moved the finish line from Mackinac Island to Harbor Springs, Mich., on Little Traverse Bay in the 1912 and 1913 races. But by 1914, it was back to the full distance.


This race proved one of the most grueling to date. Only eight of the 21 participating crafts managed to finish, with six retreating to Chicago in the first 12 hours. The Chicago Tribune reported that the yachts "limped back to port during the night after a battle with a northeast gale, which for a time threatened to send two of the crafts to the bottom of the lake."


With winds gusting to 75 mph, only 8 of 42 boats finished during the "Year of the Big Blow." The crew of the Reverie was rescued by the Coast Guard after being swept overboard.


Sailors encountered winds of 60 mph. Out of 167 starters, 88 withdrew. Media mogul Ted Turner, who raced aboard his American Eagle, publicly retracted a statement he made calling Lake Michigan a "mill pond."


A cold front rolled in and wreaked havoc on the race. Fifteen boats withdrew. The violent storm broke booms, tore down the mast of one boat and capsized another. Roy Disney's boat, Pyewacket, broke the Mac Race time record held by Dick Jennings and the Pied Piper.


A strong storm hit the fleet in the northern part of the lake, caused damage to many boats and tragically resulted in the death of two sailors. These were the first racing-related deaths in the history of the race.

©2014 Chicago Yacht Club