The 100th Race to Mackinac

Call it a milestone because it is.

The 100th running of the Race to Mackinac—aka the Chicago-Mac, 400+ boats over the start line as of July 19—is unprecedented in American sailing.

Call it Lake Michigan because a lake it is, but it’s also an inland sea, and this event is run under offshore regulations.

Call it unprecedented because the Race to Mackinac celebrated its centennial back in 1998, ten years ago, 100 years after five boats made the first official outing. Newport-Bermuda and Transpac both started in 1906 (the same year that the Mackinac Cup was purchased and dedicated). Bermuda and Transpac have had their centennial events, but since those East Coast and West Coast distance classics are run every two years, it will be a considerable while before they have a 100th running.

Among sailors in the region, the Race to Mackinac is close to being a cult.

When I say “close,” I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. Skippers who don’t plan to do the race have a hard time finding crew for the season, and a surprising number of sailors qualify for the Island Goats Society. The minimum for membership is 25 Macs, which, doing the math (and using their own words), also can be expressed as:

Someone who has endured over 60 days racing the Mac

Someone who has raced at least 8,325 miles from Chicago to Mackinac Island

Someone who has survived sailing through 50-100 thunderstorms

Someone who has suffered through about 250 on- and off-watch changes

John Nedau, who races his Windancer in the GL70 fleet, is the all-time Goat at 61 Macs so far.

Roy Disney’s Pyewacket holds the course record at 23 hours 30 minutes, and Disney is back for a ceremonial blessing in 2008.

I’m back for my second transit of Lake Michigan, but it also completes my milestones collection of American distance classics: centennial Transpac, centennial Bermuda, 100th Race to Mac. More info plus race tracking at
Chicago Yacht Club. Below is a chart of the racecourse.

Looks as if we might get rained on a bit, as if folks around here needed rain. My crewmates are making cellular calls to friends to ask them to check their basements.

More to come, from Mackinac Island—Kimball Livingston

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