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  • Peggy Simonsen

the Mackinac Race

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Mid-July is the weekend of the Mac Race- Sailboats racing 333 miles (as the crow flies) from Chicago to Mackinac Island, Michigan. Looks like the weather is cooperating-not a lot of wind but no thunderstorms! I raced the Mac with Bill on our boat Yonder four times from 1998-2001, and on Vitesse as captain three more times, 2003-05. This year there are 233 boats from around the world coming to Chicago for the oldest annual freshwater distance race in the world.

Vitesse was a 40-foot Farr 395 racer/cruiser. I had a crew of eight for the race that in 2005 took 44 hours. Many smaller boats take up to 60 hours! We had two-hour watches unless we needed to make a sail change, when everyone has to be on deck. As I wrote about in Wandering the World, we just missed a horrendous thunderstorm that year, which dismasted boats and tore sails of those caught in it. Overnight races are grueling- with very little sleep and no time to relax, as we can cruising. In a race you have to be focused all the time on sail trim, wind changes, weather, steering the best line, tactics and the map. I had an experienced crew, so we always did ok, but we were more conservative in dangerous weather than some of our competitors, so never won. (Never had a catastrophe either!) But in as difficult a race as the Mac is, we were happy to finish whole! I sold Vitesse in 2008 and it is still racing the Mac (now named Hiwasee) 13 years later. I still love to sail, but do not miss the prep work, expense, and difficulty of racing. Here are some photos from the past.

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