Race to Mackinac, Grand Hotel share timely connection
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Within days of the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Grand Hotel, the Pied Piper smashed the then-Mac record in 1987.
Thirty years later, the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac and the Grand Hotel both exist across time, almost outside of time.
The cruising divisions in the 109th Mac set sail at 3 p.m. Friday. The bulk of the fleet set sail beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday. The first finishers will reach Mackinac Island, Mich., 333 miles away, late Sunday or early Monday. The bulk of the fleet generally finishes by Monday.
That timely connection between the Grand Hotel and the Mac wasn’t lost on owner/skipper Dick Jennings, who told William Recktenwald in the Chicago Tribune, “Too bad we had to break up the Chicago Yacht Club ladies’ cocktail party on the Grand Hotel front porch, but we planned it that way.’’
With a finish at 5:40 p.m. Chicago time in 25 hours, 50, 50 seconds, the Pied Piper and crew were the first in Mac history to reach the Mackinac Island, Michigan, in time for the traditional Sunday evening cocktail party on the porch of the Grand Hotel.
The difference in the 30 years since is sailors arriving in time for the Grand Hotel Porch Party at 5:30-7:30 p.m. Sunday is not completely unexpected.
Though it did take another 11 years before another crew reached faster than Jennings’. In 1998, on the 100th anniversary of the first Mac, Steve Fossett and his Stars and Stripes reached the island in 18:50:32, the multihull record.
Forget the cocktail party. The mostly Aussie crew were in early enough for Sunday lunch. The race committee even had to scramble to find someone to fire the cannon, marking the crossing of the finish line, on a Sunday morning. I had my traditional Sunday ramble around the island stopped.
Since then, no multihull has come even remotely close to matching that time. But several monohulls have arrived or nearly arrived in time for the porch party.
Most notable was Roy Disney and Pyewacket with the monohull record in 2002 (23:30:34). Five years later, Doug DeVos and Windquest finished Sunday evening in (28:44:43). Last year, Frederick Warner IV and Arete’reached in time for the party in 23:01:09.
The Grand Hotel, a National Historic Landmark with the world’s longest porch, turned 130 on Monday. It opened on a bluff overlooking the Straits of Mackinac on July 10, 1887, 11 years before the first Mac.
To this day, my wife rues the fact I never finagled a porch party invite for the Grand Hotel in the years when I covered the Mac finish on the island.
Follow me on Twitter at @BowmanOutside.
Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac
What: 109th sailing of the world’s oldest freshwater distance race, 333 statute miles (289.4 nautical miles), from Chicago to Mackinac Island, Mich.
Who: About 3,000 sailors, more than 300 boats
When: Cruisers begin at 3 p.m. today. Racing divisions leave in sections, beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday
Course: Starts east of Navy Pier, ends at the line between the lighthouse on Round Island and the race committee trailer on Mackinac Island
Monohull record: Pyewacket, Roy Disney, 23:30:34, 2002
Multihull record: Stars and Stripes, Steve Fossett, 18:50:32, 1998
Spectators: (land): Boats pass east end of Navy Pier, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, upshiftcreative.com/ashorething/. (water): Mac start can be stunning from a boat on Lake Michigan
Tracking: cycracetomackinac.com, click “Race Tracking”
Tracker App: YB Races
Island Goats: Sailors with at least 25 Macs
1898: Five yachts started Aug. 6 in the Race from Chicago to Mackinac Island. Vanenna won in 51 hours.
1904: Second Race to Mackinac.
1905: First female skipper, Evelyn Wright, and her all-woman crew sailed the sloop Lady Eileen. Slowest race: Mistral’s elapsed time was 94 hours, 10 minutes.
1908: Chicago Mayor William Hale Thompson entered his 81-foot racing schooner, Valmore, and the era of the big schooners began.
1909: For the first time in local yachting history, progress in the Mac was reported back to Chicago by wireless telegraph.
1911: Gale year (80 mph). Commodore Baum’s Amorita established elapsed-time record (31:14:30) that stood for 76 years.
1912-13: After the gale, race was shortened to end at Harbor Springs on Little Traverse Bay.
1917-1920: Suspended during World War I.
1933: Chimon, a schooner owned by Henry K. Hill from the Royal Canadian Yacht Club of Toronto, was the first foreign yacht to win the Mac.
1937: Year of the Big Blow, a 65 mph northwestern gale. Only eight finished from a fleet of 42.
1957: The mighty Mackinac Bridge erected over the Straits of Mackinac.
1960: Island Goats Sailing Society established by Hobart “Red” Olson. Minimum qualifications? Raced at least 8,325 miles from Chicago to Mackinac Island (25 or more Macs).
1970: Gale year. A northerly knocked 45 on the nose for 16 hours, at night exceeding 60 mph. Out of 167 starters, 88 withdrew. Ted Turner — racing his America’s Cup Boat, American Eagle — publicly retracted calling Lake Michigan a “mill pond.”
1979: Goats admitted first “nanny goat”: Anne Juell.
1987: Dick Jennings’ Santa Cruz 70, Pied Piper, set record of 25:50:44.
1993: Motorola lent 12 Traxar Global Positioning Systems to selected yachts.
1998: Steve Fossett made the 100th anniversary special with his Stars and Stripes setting the elapsed record (18:50:32) in the exhibition multihull division.
2000: Mackinac Island was put in a state of emergency as power was lost just before the bulk of the fleet arrived.
2002: Roy Disney’s Pyewacket set Mac record (23:30:34). A cold front shifting northerly broke booms, dismasted one boat, capsized the 44-foot multihull Caliente and caused at least 15 boats to withdraw.
2008: 100th sailing of the Mac. First time 100 percent of the fleet had GPS coverage.
2011: The first racing related deaths came on a freak storm near the finish around midnight on Sunday July 17. WingNuts capsized northwest of Charlevoix, Mich., and its skipper Mark Morley and Suzanne Bickel, both from Saginaw, Mich., died.