Cruising Lake Michigan: A rising division in the Mac race

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As “Diver Dave’’ was finishing cleaning the bottom of Celestial, Jeff Linstrom’s Tartan 4300, Wednesday, Linstrom said, “I know someone who has 8 pounds of freeze-dried food [for the crew for the whole Mac]. I think the lasagna I am bringing [for one meal] weighs that much.’’

Furniture, food, fun and, hopefully, fast are the fundamentals of the cruising division in the Mac.

Forty boats are registered in the cruising division of the 108th Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac. They set sail Friday, beginning at 3 p.m. The bulk of the fleet (326 boats are registered) set sail Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m. in intervals east of Navy Pier on the 333-mile race to Mackinac Island, Mich.

“I love the idea idea of a more luxurious passage in the race to the island,’’ said Linstrom, who will race in Cruising 1. “You don’t have to cut your toothbrush in half. It is less of a camping trip, less of an RV trip and kind of a luxury cruise.’’

The cruising division harkens to the roots of the Mac as a family race.

“The pure-bred sailors call it the furniture division,’’ Linstrom said. “They think we are not really part of it. But we are. I like my furniture, too.’’

Ribbing aside, the CYC is well aware of the popularity of the cruisers. And make no mistake, more luxurious or not, the cruisers are racing.

“Luxurious and fun, but we are trying to sail our boat as fast as we are capable of sailing,’’ Linstrom said.

Joseph Haas with Infinite Diversion, a Hanse 630, has been first to finish in the cruisers every year since he first entered the division in 2012. At 63 feet, it is the biggest boat in the cruising division. In a handicapped race such as the Mac, line honors (first to finish) do not necessarily translate to winning the section or the race.

Linstrom, who has owned a boat since 2000, began sailing as a kid in Ohio, originally on Lake Erie. He has been near a Great Lake ever since, in the Chicago area for the last couple decades. This will be his third year in the cruising division, first with his wife of 28 years, Reeny, an experienced sailor, on crew.

“I have a couple people who are pretty talented who I happen to know from being a sailor and then I have friends,’’ Linstrom said.

Three of the crew own boats on the Great Lakes: Superior, Michigan and Erie. Beside his wife, Linstrom has Minnesotan Brian Bullock, Ohioans Charles Drumm and Axel Fisser, and Chicago-area sailors Walt Dickie, Megan Miller and Tara Sherman.

He expects a decent start Friday, then slow Friday overnight and Saturday, but improving enough to finish Monday.

“My view is afternoon on Monday I will probably have a mutiny on my hands [if we are not finished],’’ Linstrom said.

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