Saturday, July 23, 2016

Chicago Mackinac Race Preview

J/120 sailing offshore(Chicago, IL)- The 108th Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac has 268 keelboats registered for the 333-mile race that starts on Saturday, July 23. Throngs of sailors are feverishly preparing for this year’s race at the Chicago YC Belmont and Monroe St clubhouses as they look forward to one of the windier Mac Races in recent years.  The past few years have been some of the slowest on record, with much of the fleet not finishing until late Monday and Tuesday morning.  However, the forecasts for the start on Saturday are encouraging, with a frontal passage of a Low (depression) taking place sometime late Sunday with southerly winds in the 5-15 kts range feeding the arrival of the front for the previous 24 hours.  Then, during the frontal passage on Sunday, a classic westwards shift veering into the northwesterly quadrants, with occasional squalls in the 20-30 kts range- making things a bit exciting during the night!

Eighty-four J/Teams are participating, approximately 1/3 of the fleet, with the first boats starting at 1130 hrs and the last of the big J’s blasting off the line at 1350 hrs.  Starting with the big boys, sailing in Section 2 starting 1350 CDT, are two J/145s that have been collecting lots of silverware all over the Great Lakes.  The bright red boat is Bill Schanen’s MAIN STREET from Port Washington YC, sailing with mostly family members aboard.  The other is Chris Saxton’s VORTICES from the Detroit, MI area that recently won her class in the Bayview Mackinac Race!  The VORTICES team is hoping to go for the magic “double” for the two Mac races!

Sailing in Section 3 starting 1330 CDT is a trio of fast J/130s- SALSA (Jim Gignac from Chicago Corinthian YC), FAST EDDY (Mike & Maryellen Ferring from Arizona YC), and WILLIE J (Bert Vanderweele from Macatawa Bay YC).  Joining them is a family team from Winnetka, IL, the mighty J/133 RENEGADE (Tom & Beth Ann Papoutsis from Columbia YC).

J/111 sailing Chicago-MackThe J/111 one-design section starts 1320 CDT and it will be an enormous battle between the fifteen boats, including many top North American Championship teams.  The veterans in the class with both round-the-buoys as well as offshore experience include Brad Faber’s UTAH, Richard Hobbs’ HOBGOBLIN, Len Siegal’s LUCKY DUBIE, Rich Witzel’s ROWDY, the trio of Miz/ Dreher/ Hatfield on IMPULSE and Dave Irish’s NO SURPRISE.  Looking forward to their first fast Mac Race on 111’s are newcomers like Kevin Saedi & Rama Yousefi’s MOMENTUS, Tom Dickson’s WARLOCK, Tracy Brand’s SOLUTION, Carl Hanssen’s VARIANCE, Mark & Colin Caliban’s NO QUARTER, and Dan Kitchens’ SKULL CRACKER.

In Section 4 starting at 1310 CDT are a range of 42-45 foot J crews, including Robert McManus’s J/130 EDGE from Milwaukee YC, Bob Klairmont’s J/133 SCIROCCO 3 from Chicago YC, and Randy Kuhn/ James Richter’s J/44 CHEEP N DEEP II from Chicago Corinthian YC.

The Detroit mafia of J/120s will also have their own one-design section that starts 1300 CDT.  Many of the top teams that also sailed the Bayview Mac Race will be on hand, including Mike & Bob Kirkman’s HOT TICKET from Bayview YC, Ed Vermet & John Hughes’ NAUTI BOYS from BYC, Frank Kern’s CARINTHIA from BYC, Sandlin/ Brown/ Schram’s J-HAWKER from BYC, and Frank Giampoli’s JAHAZI.

From an overall race winners perspective, Section 5 that starts 1250 CDT has a trio of J/122s that hope to duplicate their past performances, including Mitch Padnos’ family crew on SUFFICIENT REASON from Macatawa Bay YC- a 1st in Class, 1st Overall Chicago-Mac Race winner!  They will be joined by Matt Songer’s EVVAI from Marquette YC and Bob Mampe’s GOTTA WANTA from Grand Traverse YC.  In addition, they will be contending with a real sleeper in their class, Ben Lumpkin’s brand new J/112E sport-cruiser, MARY GAIL from Chicago YC.

Another big one-design section is the J/109 Division that starts 1220 CDT.  Hauling the mail off the line to prove once again they are always contenders overall will be Scott Sims’ SLAPSHOT from Chicago YC, David Gustman’s NORTHSTAR from Chicago YC, Peter Priede’s FULL TILT from Columbia YC, and Jack & Jim Toliver’s VANDA III from Chicago YC.

Perhaps one of the scariest sections on a handicap basis, depending on weather, is the Level 35s that start at 1210 CDT.  Why?  Because it has seven J/35s sailing and they are not slow, many of them have won the Chicago-Mac in class and overall in the past and are always the “sleeper” group in the Mac Race- a.k.a. “run silent, run deep” and surprise them in the end!  That fleet includes Larry Schell’s famous TOUCH OF GREY from Columbia YC and David Timmer’s HAT TRICK from Muskegon YC.

The Section 7 division that starts 1200 CDT is a mixed bag of fast J/crews, including the Bayview Mac Race 2016 division winner- the J/109 TOA sailed by Bruce Danly & Jimmie Mitchell from Chicago YC.  Joining them are two J/35 family teams- BOZOS CIRCUS (Bruce, Chris & Eric Metcalf from Chicago YC) and OB LA DI (Rick, Bobby & Kelly Jean Reed from Chicago YC).  Hunting for tactical and strategic advantage amongst the crews without a clue will be the J/33 RETRIEVER sailed by Matt Beer from Chicago YC.

Seventeen boats are sailing the one-design J/105 Class that starts 1150 am CDT.  That is an amazing turnout and a credit to the Great Lakes fleet of J/105 owners, past and present, to continue to attract newcomers to the class.  Going against the mass of class veterans is the Petzold family- the GREEN FLASH from Little Traverse YC in Harbor Springs, MI- family members include Jane, Tricia, Tom & Cathy Petzold!  They will have their hands full taking on past Mac veterans like Gyt & Tom Petkus’ VYTIS, Nancy Glover’s TEMPEST, Clark Pellet’s SEALARK, Carter Williams’ CREATIVE DESTRUCTION, Ken Ganch’s GONZO, Mike & Ed Newman’s VALHALLA, Sandy Curtiss’ ROCKING HORSE, Mark Symonds’ PTERODACTYL, Mike Ludtke’s SMOKIN J, and Jon Weglarz’s THE ASYLUM. Do not try to handicap this fleet; it is truly “anything goes” based on past, present, and future performance!

J/88 sailing Chicago-MacThe battle of the 30-footers will be taking place in Section 8 that starts 1130 CDT. Three J/88s and two J/92s. OMG, they are all fast crews.  For starters, the J/88s include Ben Wilson’s RAMBLER from Chicago YC, Boyd & Janice Jarrell’s SLOT MACHINE from Columbia YC, and Scott & Sean Grealish’s BLUE FLASH from Willamette SC in Portland, Oregon.  All three boats have won races offshore, so handicapping them from a Ladbroke’s UK or Vegas bookmaker’s perspective would be just about impossible.  Of note, it is a “bucket race” for the boys from Oregon on BLUE FLASH that have won their division in three major California offshore races.  No wallflowers themselves are the two J/92s, Bruce Santerre’s SPLIT DECISION from Lake City YC and John Madey’s CYCLONE from Chicago Corinthian YC.  DO NOT be surprised the Overall Race Winner comes from this grouping of five boats- they all push hard, sail hard, are adrenaline junkies, and do not quit- squalls or not in 25-35 kts winds!  In other words, this year’s Mac Race has all the makings of a small boat race and these crews are all perfectly capable of planing mode for the full 289nm to Mackinac Island!

Perhaps the ultimate sleeper in the year’s Mac Race sits in Section 10 that starts 1100 CDT.  Scott & Kimberley Petritz’s J/29 TFWB RELENTLESS from Grand Traverse YC has proven time and again to lead fleets when it matters most, when the proverbial B.S. hits the fan.  J/29s have won the Chicago-Mac Race in class and overall in the past.  If that is the scenario in 2016, they will be fighting hard with their colleagues in Section 8 that only starts 30 minutes behind them.  In fact, a simple prediction is that if the start takes place with a building southerly breeze (any quadrant), the J/29, J/92s and J/88s clean house overall. Why? They start planing VMG in just 13-15 kts of wind and the rest of the race is reaching- one of their ultimate strengths sailing on any point of sail.  For more Chicago to Mackinac Race sailing information