The Big Mac

The Chicago Yacht Club's Race to Mackinac (aka 'The Mac') is unquestionably the world's preeminent freshwater distance race. Boats travel from near and far (this year's globe-trotting award goes to Beau Geste, a well-campaigned Farr 80 hailing from Hong Kong) for this storied race, which just completed its 102nd running.

With a dramatic starting line off of downtown Chicago, its Gothic-inspired architecture and soaring skyline providing the backdrop, to the race's decidedly bucolic finish at lovely Mackinac Island, a place where cars are banned and horses still define the acronym 'HP', The Mac is full-on sailing for its 333 miles.

IMG 7682 - 2010 Chicago Mackinac start

This year proved to be no exception, except perhaps with the variety of wind angles and speeds. Boats and crews were tested, from light-air reaching to upwind work to heavy-air running. 'These conditions rewarded well-rounded boats that were well-sailed,' reports Ron White, the race's Chief Measurer and crewmember aboard the multihull Nice Pair. 'The physical conditions were also spectacular. We saw a full moonrise with a simultaneous sunset in the Manitous.'

Meanwhile, at the RC44 Valencia Cup, Artemis, skippered by Terry Hutchinson, was last night topping the leader board, emerging unscathed after seven of fourteen flights. 'This was one of the windiest days we've had match racing, but they're spectacular boats. They come alive downwind,' said Hutchinson.

Match racing continues before the event switches gears to fleet racing, which continues over the weekend. AC talent in this hyper-competitive match-racing class includes Russell Coutts, James Spithill, Paul Cayard and Rod Davis; interestingly both of BMW/Oracle's chessmasters are competing, perhaps as a harbinger of the next type of Cup boat, or perhaps just to keep their skills sharp…

And for speed-sailing freaks, Long Shot, Russell Lon's custom Ketterman-built trifoiler, which famously blew apart in 1993, is back in action after a lengthy hiatus. Rumor has it that Lon is now interested in trying to best l'Hydroptere's 500-meter speed record. Be sure to check out Erik Simonson's images of this high-strung craft.

Fair winds and following seas,