2008 Marks 100th
Running for Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac
The world’s longest annual freshwater distance race
kicks off July 19, 2008
For the 100th time since 1898, sailors will gather
in Chicago to begin the 333 mile sailing race to
Mackinac Island, Mich. The Chicago Yacht Club Race
to Mackinac, presented by Lands’ End, is one of the
oldest and most prestigious freshwater sailing
races, and attracts some of the best sailors in the
world. The race kicks off July 19, 2008.
“The Mac,” as the race is affectionately known, will
host 460 boats a record entrance with approximately
5,000 sailors competing in this world class sporting
event. Although the Mac remains primarily an amateur
event, this race has a proven track record of
attracting some of the finest sailing talent in the
sport. Record holders include renowned sailor Roy
Disney with his monohull Pyewacket at 23
hours, 30 minutes and 34 seconds in 2002, and famous
adventurer the late Steve Fosset on Stars and
Stripes, which set the multihull record of 18
hours, 50 minutes, and 32 seconds in 1998. We will
see both record holders back in 2008; Roy Disney
will serve as the honorary chairman of the race and
Stars and Stripes will compete again,
skippered by Chicagoan Don Wilson.
In addition to the record number of competitor
entries and the promise of exciting competition, all
460 boats will the tracked by GPS satellite
technology this year, the largest offshore sailing
fleet on record ever to be tracked. This technology
enables friends, families, and everyone on shore to
follow the race as it unfolds on the web.
Chicago Yacht Club is proud to host this
world-famous event in sailing, and welcomes you to
follow all of the action this July. To learn more
about the 100th running of the Chicago Yacht Club
Race to Mackinac, go to the official website at
Race to Mackinac Frequently Asked
How long is the race?
333 statute miles (289.4 nautical miles) from
Chicago, starting just off Navy Pier, to Mackinac
Island, Michigan. It is the longest annual
freshwater sailing distance race in the world. The
boats cross the finish line between the lighthouse
on Round Island and the race committee trailer on
When was the first Race to Mackinac?
The first Mac Race was held in 1898 as an informal
race of 5 boats. Vanenna won in 51 hours. The
second Mac didn’t come until 1904 and then
intermittently until after WWI. Every Year since
1921 has seen the running of the Race to Mackinac.
2008 marks the 100th running.
How many boats participate?
There are usually about 300 boats and 3,000 crew
members in the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac.
Participation is by invitation from the Chicago
Yacht Club. 2008 marks a record number of entrants
at 460 boats.
What do the winners receive?
The Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac is an
amateur event, so no prize money is awarded. The
Section winners will receive a plaque, a flag, and
bragging rights for the next year. The overall
winners have their names engraved on the permanent
trophies that are displayed at Chicago Yacht Club.
What is the record for the fastest race?
Pyewacket, owned and skipped by Roy Disney
set the monohull record in 2002 with an elapsed time
of 23 hours 30 minutes and 34 seconds. This broke
the 14 year record of 25 hours 50 minutes and 44
seconds established by the yacht Pied Piper,
a Santa Cruz 70 owned and skippered by Dick Jennings
of Evanston, IL. For multihulls, the record of 18
hours 50 minutes and 32 seconds was set in 1998 by
Steve Fossett on Stars and Stripes, the
catamaran previously sailed by Dennis Conner in the
America’s Cup. The race usually takes most of the
fleet between 40 and 60 hours to finish.
How can big boats and small boats race against
Boats are handicapped by a series of mathematical
rating systems which predict how fast they should be
capable of sailing under a variety of conditions.
Applying these ratings to each boat’s elapsed time
on the racecourse determines which boat sailed the
best relative to their rating, and therefore
determines the winner. This allows the entire fleet
to compete against each other.
How does the race start?
The fleet is divided into groups or sections based
on rating. Each section is comprised of 8-28 boats
of similar ratings. Each section starts the race at
a specific time, beginning at 12:00 PM on July 19th
and proceeding every 10 minutes until the last
section has started. A cannon is fired at the
specific start time for each section.
The objective is to cross the starting line under
full sail immediately after the starting gun for
your section is fired. Boats crossing the starting
line too early are required to turn back and
restart, a significant penalty.
What do the boats do at night?
The boats will race around the clock until they
reach Mackinac Island; so sailing at night is
required. Running lights and lighted instruments are
required for navigation and safety. Additionally,
the crew will work in shifts, or “watches,” so that
there is time for sleeping, eating, etc...
What do the boats do during storms?
Storms are common on Lake Michigan and the boats are
required to be equipped to handle them. Generally
the procedure calls for shortening sail area and
making adjustments to minimizing the chance of
damage to the boat, equipment, and crew. The boats
will continue to race during storms and many racers
may opt for life jackets and safety harnesses for
Stormy Macs: 1970: More than half of the 167
yachts took refuge from northerly winds gusting past
60 mph. Only 79 starters finished. 1937:
“Year of the big blow” winds 75 mph; only 8 of 42
boats finished. 1925: Virginia
survived to win; only 8 of 21 finished. 1911:
Winds reached 80 mph, and the Amorita won in
31:14:30, a record that stood until Dick Jennings
Pied Piper topped it in 1987 (25:50:44).
It should, be noted that for the Chicago Race to
Mackinac, the Chicago Yacht Club, with the
assistance and support of the US Coast Guard and
many other support groups, maintains one of the
finest safety records in all of sailing.
What is an Island Goat?
Racers who complete 25 Mackinac races are invited to
join the exclusive “Island Goat Sailing Society.”
Originally named for their appearance, aroma, and
behavior upon reaching Mackinac Island, these salty
veterans represent an elite chapter in the heritage
of the Race to Mackinac. The Island Goat Sailing
Society was established by Hobart “Red” Olson in
1950. Island goats have raced at least 8,325 miles
from Chicago to Mackinac Island. For a list of all
goats, go to
How can spectators find out where the boats are
during the race?
Spectators can logon to www.chicagoyachtclub.org/racetomackinac
during the race and click on the “Race Tracking” to
watch real time GPS positioning of all 460 boats
during the race. Additionally, results will be
posted and updated on this website as the racers
2008 Race to Mackinac to be
Largest Sailing Fleet Ever Tracked
The Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac is not only
the longest annual freshwater sailing race in the
world, but for 2008 will also set the mark as the
largest offshore sailing fleet ever tracked by GPS.
For the first time, Chicago Yacht Club will require
all 460 participants in “The Mac” to have a position
transponder aboard. Now friends, family and everyone
on shore will know exactly where the boats are
sailing during the 333 mile race from Chicago to
Mackinac Island, Mich. 2008 marks the 100th running
of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, which
begins Saturday, July 19th.
“Chicago Yacht Club has long been a pioneer in
tracking sailboat races. This year, we will take the
next step in that journey by placing position
transponders on all entered boats. With all boats
being tracked, the Mac will truly become a spectator
sport. Anyone, whether they are located in Chicago,
Mackinac Island, or on the other side of the world,
will be able to track the hourly progress of any of
the 460 boats,” Greg Miarecki, chair of the 2008
Mackinac Committee remarked. “We are very much
looking forward to bringing the excitement of this
race to millions of people.”
Tracking efforts like this help make the sport of
sailing more community friendly and globally
visible. Chicago Yacht Club is proud to make this
world-famous event available to the world and
welcomes all spectators to join in the action.
Access to tracking, information on all of the
competitors and race updates for the 100th running
of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac are
available at the official website at
Over 100 Years of the Chicago
Yacht Club Race to Mackinac
1898 August 6, 1898 five yachts start in the
Race from Chicago to Mackinac Island.
1904 The second Race to Mackinac.
1905 First female skipper Miss Evelyn Wright
and her all woman crew sailed the sloop Lady
Eileen. This was also the year of the slowest
race; Mistral’s elapsed time was 94 hours, 10
1906 The Mackinac Cup is purchased and
adopted as perpetual trophy for the annual Chicago
Yacht Club Race to Mackinac.
1908 William Hale Thompson, Mayor of Chicago,
entered his 81 foot racing schooner Valmore
and the era of the big schooners started.
1909 For the first time in local yachting
history, the story of the progress of the yachts in
the Race to Mackinac was reported back to Chicago by
1911 Commodore Baum's Amorita
establishes elapsed time record for the Mackinac
race which stood for 76 years at 31 h 14 min 30 sec.
This year sailors experienced an 80 mph gale.
Vencendor wrecked on the rocks of Fisherman’s
Island off Charlevoix. Thankfully, no lives were
1912-1913 As an aftermath of the 1911 race,
several owners favored a shorter race ending in
Harbor Springs on Little Traverse Bay.
1914 The Mackinac race resumed on its full
course, with only five yachts competing. New racing
rules allowed the P-Class sloop Olympian to
participate, which won the race
1917-1920 Race to Mackinac is suspended
during WWI. WWI took away many yachtsmen and put
many boats out of commission.
1921 The new Universal rule promoted the P, Q
and R class racing yachts and they began to dominate
1924 R class sloop Sari wins Mac. She
was the only R ever to win a Mackinac race and
proved that even the smaller sister of the great Ns,
Ps and Qs could stand on her own among the
1925 One of the most grueling races to date, it
was a beat to windward practically the entire
distance. Only 8 out of 21 starters finished, 6 were
driven back to Chicago in the first 12 hours. The Q
sloop Virginia won.
1926 Interestingly, the racing rules changed
to a minimum of 8 tons, barring Q and R boats from
competition, cited as being too small to compete in
the big boat race.
1927 The racing rules were changed to allow
for 2 distinct classes of boats, and the second Mac
cup was created. The Chicago Mackinac Trophy is
presented to Chicago Yacht Club by Commodore George
Woodruff in 1927 to satisfy the demands of cruising
yachts (sloops, yawls, schooners) for a separate
trophy from racing yachts (Qs, Ps, and other
Universal rule type boats).
1933 Chimon becomes the first foreign
yacht to win the Mackinac, in from the Royal
Canadian YC of Toronto, a schooner owned by Henry K.
1936 Race to Mackinac grows up. The race saw
42 yachts, representing 13 clubs. More than a third
were new boats.
1937 The Year of the Big Blow. The fleet
experiences a 65 mph northwester gale, and out of a
fleet of 42, only 8 yachts finish. George
Mergenthaler crew on Reverie is rescued by
the Coast Guard after being swept overboard
1946 With the End of WWII, the Race to
Mackinac flourishes. 1946 saw 53 entries
1948 L.L. “Ole” Karas wins 9th Mac victory as
skipper on Cara Mia, plus his 3 wins crewing
a record 62 entries, the fastest race since 1911.
1950 Royono Trophy is established awarded for
the first to finish. The trophy was established
after John B. Ford Jr’s Royono III was the
first to finish in four consecutive races from 1946
to 1949, yet was never in first placed based on
1952 The beginning of the modern era of
offshore racing. The Universal division was
eliminated. The cruising and racing/cruising
divisions were created and eventually became the IOR
Grand Prix and the LMYA divisions
1955 The second slowest race to date since
1898. 77 hours, 52 minutes.
1957 The mighty Mackinac Bridge is erected
over the Straits of Mackinac
1960 The Island Goats Sailing Society is
established by Hobart “Red” Olson. The Minimum
Qualifications for an Island Goat: Raced at least
8,325 miles from Chicago to Mackinac Island, making
25 or more races.
1970 Sailors once again experienced a gale, a
northerly knocked 45 on the nose for 16 hours, at
night exceeding 60 mph. and out of 167 starters, 88
withdrew. Ted Turner racing his 12-meter America’s
Cup Boat, American Eagle, publicly retracts
calling Lake Michigan a “mill pond.”
1979 Island Goats Sailing Society admits its
first “nanny goat” (female member) Anne Juell.
1983 MHS and IOR are used as the two rating rules
1987 Dick Jennings' Santa Cruz 70, Pied
Piper, establishes new elapsed time record for
the Mackinac Race. 25:50:44
1993 Motorola lends 12 Motorola Traxar Global
Positioning Systems (GPS) to selected yachts in the
race as an experiment in helping the Race Committee
track the progress of the race.
1993 Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac
commemorative red nun buoy marker erected by Island
Goats sailing society and dedicated at Windermere
1996 An extremely slow race, Pied Piper
was the first to finish with a time of nearly 53
hours-more than double the time of her record
setting run in 1987.
1996 First time the Mac held and exhibition
division for multihulls. Steve Fossett completed the
race on Stars and Stripes, one of 2
multihulls built for Dennis Conner’s America’s Cup
campaign in the 1980s. Seven multihulls competed in
1998 Chicago Yacht Club celebrates the 100th
Anniversary of the First Race to Mackinac. A
permanent trophy was offered for first overall based
on Multihull PHRF handicaps. Also the Martin. D.
Rieck Trophy was presented by Harken Marine family
and offered by the Mac Committee as the Multihull
First to Finish trophy. Famous adventurer Steve
Fossett set the record this year in 18 hours, 50
minutes and 32 seconds in Stars and Stripes.
2000 Real-time positioning on 60 boats, at
least 3 yachts in each of 20 sections were equipped
with satellite transponders and dedicated GPS
receivers that regularly send their exact positions,
using SailNet technology. The website sees 100,000
2002 RaceNet software, developed by
Microsoft, tracks the fleet’s progress throughout
the race with real-time scoring functionality on 50
transponders. A cold front shifting northerly broke
booms, dismasted one boat, capsized the 44 foot
multi-hull Caliente, caused at least 15 boats
to withdraw and set another record. Roy Disney's
Pyewacket breaks 15-year old Mac Race record
held by Dick Jennings: 23 hours, 30 minutes.
2003 First year for Americap II rating system as
sole handicap scoring system for mohohulls.
2004 55 boats use transponders built by SASCO
2005 Mackinac Committee drafts and launches
an on-line entry and race administration program.
Also Race to Mackinac becomes a true spectator sport
as sophisticated GPS transponders are developed by
FlagShip IS. Seventy-five boats pilot test new
2005 Record number of website hits, 1.3
2006 Mackinac Committee introduces the
Chicago-Mackinac Safety Regulation (CMSR) for
monohulls and multihulls. This coalesces ISAF, US
SAILING and US Coast Guard safety rules into
documents that facilitate and improve compliance.
The Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac website and
Race tracking site saw over 7 million website hits
2007 Website hits reach all all-time high at
20 million. 30% of the fleet is tracked by GPS.
Chicago Yacht Club introduces brand new Cruising
Division to race.
2008 100th running of the Chicago Yacht Club
Race to Mackinac sees record number of 460 boats
entered and race entries close for the first time in
history. 2008 also marks the first time there will
be 100% GPS coverage of the fleet.
Stars and Stripes Returns to
Record setting multihull returns to race the
No boat has been able to beat the Chicago Yacht Club
Race to Mackinac speed record of 18 hours, 50
minutes, and 32 seconds set by Stars and Stripes
(US-1) in 1998. The 60-foot catamaran, designed for
Dennis Conner’s 1988 America’s Cup Campaign, was
skippered by world-famous adventurer Steve Fossett -
the first sailor to have multihulls introduced into
“The Mac.” His goal? To be the fastest boat in the
world’s longest annual freshwater sailing race.
Before Fossett’s untimely death, he made speed
sailing a specialty, setting 21 official world
records and 9 distance race records since 1993. 2008
marks the 100th Running of the Chicago Yacht Club
Race to Mackinac, and Fossett’s record-setting
vessel Stars and Stripes returns to race on
Lake Michigan chartered by Chicagoan Donald Wilson.
Wilson, owner of DRW Holdings, LLC, has been an avid
sailor in one-design and match racing competitions
throughout the world. “With this year being such a
special year in the history of The Mac, we wanted to
do something special as well,” Wilson explains on
why he chose to charter the famous boat. Wilson has
competed in previous Mac’s in the Tartan-10 class;
T-10s are 33 foot monohulls that normally take 50-60
hours to finish the 333 mile race. “This year will
be a different kind of ride,” Wilson laughed.
When The Mac kicks off July 19, 2008, most of the
460 boat fleet will take between 40 to 60 hours to
complete the race. Stars and Stripes, on the
other hand, has proven to be the fastest boat in 99
years of Mac races. Nevertheless, Wilson humbly says
that beating the record is not his top priority.
“Our first priority is to have a safe race and our
second is to have fun. I feel we have a great crew
put together and we are looking forward to an
Spectators will be able to follow Stars and
Stripes’ progress online during the 100th
running of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac.
The famous multihull along with all of the other
boats in the fleet will be tracked by GPS
transponders. This technology enables friends,
families, and everyone on shore to follow the race
as it unfolds on the web. Check out
www.chicagoyachtclub.org/racetomackinac for more