Mac Attack: A look at the 2009 Chicago-Mac Race

With limited wind throughout the 101st Chicago to Mackinac race, many would consider it ordinary. Except perhaps the nine-member crew on Zoom, who made it extraordinary, by winning the Chicago Mackinac Trophy with a corrected time 55:09.53.

“It was very satisfying,” said skipper Mike Newman. “It was a strange feeling. All we did was sail the boat. There was no heavy weather, no big winds to battle, no shifts to play with. We just went up the lake…and, Oh ya, we won. It was just a good sail with a plan.”

In fact, their direction decided the race. It wasn’t the road less traveled, but the route no one took, which enabled Zoom to move efficiently and effectively ahead of their competition. “We looked at the weather for several days before hand and thought if there was a good sea breeze we’d go up the Wisconsin shore,” said Newman. “If there wasn’t, we’d go toward Michigan. We were surprised more boats didn’t go that way. We had a nice steady wind of 7-11 knots. There were holes for an hour or two especially Saturday night.”

At dusk just off Green Bay, Zoom went east across the lake to Michigan. They came in between North Manitou and South Fox Island Monday at 0900 and tacked up the Straits behind a northeast wind. “We had no idea where the rest of the boats were until mid-day Monday [before getting an internet signal] when we hit Grays Reef,” said Newman, who skippered the 39-foot Farr design with George Miz and Pete Dreher. “When we saw there were a few 70s behind us, we thought we had an opportunity to win the whole thing,” said Miz.

With wind on the east side of the Mackinac Bridge, Newman tacked three times before the finish line at 2011. Monday night they celebrated with their wives and friends at the Pink Pony. Once Zoom docked in the harbor, her sailors found they were the only small boat there. Checking at the tent they saw there wasn’t a corrected time yet.

The crew retired at 0200, with Larry Kerner keeping guard on the boat. “We went to bed on the assumption we won,” said Miz.

By Wednesday morning it was official. “It didn’t look good leaving the coast,” said Newman, an electrical engineer who owns a software company, Contech Systems Inc., in Palos, Illinois. “We just kept moving the boat fast and had a great crew; they never got down. We made Grays Reef and everyone else was slowly around the Manitou Islands.”

“To win you absolutely need a contribution from everyone,” said Miz. “Skippering is a challenge in concentration. We had flawless sail changes and we took the right route.”

It was also a first for Bruce Geffen captain of Nice Pair in the Multihull Division. Stuck in the Manitous, Geffen made his move to the shore. “We listened to the weather Monday afternoon and they said the wind would clock east,” said Geffen. “We wanted to get to the shoreline as quick as possible. The wind carried us through Traverse Bay. We made up 30 miles on our competition.

“We hit Gray’s Reef and we were five miles offshore. We tacked and shot right through Gray’s Reef doing 15 knots. Most of the competition was at Beaver Island. The winds came east and we sailed on a beat through the Straits to the finish with four of the crew sound asleep.”

That was at 0130. Tuesday morning. But Nice Pair didn’t slow down as they headed to Port Huron for their Race to Mackinac July 25. “We won our division last year and were second overall, but this is our first time winning the multihull; there’s nothing like it,” said Geffen, who has done 20 Mac’s, 10 on Nice Pair. “We’re first in the second century of the Mac Race. When we got to Port Huron, we passed a bottle around and took a nip. There were a lot of congratulatory hugs.”

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