Finding Inspiration in: Boats, Suds, City & Adventure!
What do you get when you combine sailboats, a big city, world-class champagne and a remote island? The world’s oldest annual freshwater distance race, the Chicago to Mackinac!
Starting this week, and first held in 1898, the Race to Mackinac covers 289.4 nautical miles, leaving from Chicago’s Navy Pier and crossing the finish line in Lake Huron, between Round Island lighthouse and the Island of Mackinac. The boats travel up Lake Michigan and past mile after mile of glorious Michigan beach-line. They finally cross into the Straits of Mackinac and under the Mackinac Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the Western hemisphere.
With over 350 boats and 3,500 crew members, this amateur event (no prize money is awarded, only plaques and bragging rights) brings world-class sailors to the Great Lakes for “the adventure of a lifetime,” traveling from one glorious destination to another. After dividing the boats (of various sizes) into groups/sections, a cannon fires to signify the start of each section. Boats are handicapped by a mathematical rating system which predicts when they should feasibly reach the island. They sail throughout the night(s), and because of the rating system, the biggest and fastest boat does not necessarily take the crown.
So where do the suds fit in? This year, the race is co-sponsored by none other than Veuve Clicquot, everyone’s favorite celebratory beverage!
Considered “one of the Top 10 Islands in the World” by Conde Nast Traveler, Mackinac Island is found in the Straits of Mackinac and can be seen from the beaches of Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas (and from the Mackinac bridge). The island is accessible only by boat/ferry (or snowmobile in the winter) and does not allow cars/motorized vehicles; everyone travels by horse-drawn carriage and bicycle! A trip to Mackinac means boatloads (literally) of tourists, mouthfuls of fudge (an island favorite), a nose full of manure, and, on Monday, a slew of sailors.
Among those sailors will be my hubby, of whom I am very proud! He will be making the trip with 8 good friends, all of whom have strong ties to the Mackinac region, having either been raised in, or are life-long summer residents of, the nearby Les Chenueax Islands. Follow the race here, along with the Chicago Yacht Club, the Mackinac Island Yacht Club, myself, and thousands of other spectators and well-wishers! The best of luck to all organizers and sailors! See you on Mackinac!