Skip to main content

Mike Jones's site

Mackinac Race
Chicago Mac 2017
Ringing in Spring
About Us
Contact Us
Site Map
Member Login

2017 Chicago to Mackinac Race

Mike Jones just completed his 30th Chicago to Mackinac Race with his Mumm 36 “Mrs.  Jones”. The Chicago to Mackinac race is a 333-mile yacht race featuring boats ranging in size from 30 feet to 86 feet.  The race is on Lake Michigan going from Chicago to Mackinac Island.

This year’s race was exceptionally trying with 1/3 of the boats dropping out, including DeVos’s 86-foot Wind Quest, the TP 52 Natalie J, and all three other Mumm 36’s. There was a boat capsize, and a man overboard.

Here is what went on during the race:

We left Chicago with 6 to 10 knots for wind off the stern quarter. We sailed west of the rhumbline following the Sydney 38 Eagle.

We were watching the weather radar on our GPS. The storms at the time were over the upper peninsula of Michigan and moving south. I had known for several days we were going to get hit, and I was dreading Sunday.

We went on our watch system at 6 PM, and our watch was first. At this time, the storms were in the upper part of the lake.

No big change in things till the end of my watch. Nathan's watch took over with the storms an hour or two away. As they got close he took the kite down leaving us with only the main. Then his instruments went out, so I came on deck and got them going. The winds had built to about 30 knots so the call went out for all hands on deck. The boat came up on a plane and our speed came up to 10 to 13 knots with spray coming up around us like a power boat. Nathan was driving and I was sitting on the rail with my feet straight out getting drowned by the spray coming up from the side of the boat. The wind built to 55 knots, and we were like a rocket ship.

Then it started to die and come northerly as predicted from 20 to 25 knots. The waves built to 6 to 8 feet.

We were just north of Milwaukee. Since we could not sail north we headed off the Michigan shore on a course of about 50 degrees with the number 3 and main. These conditions were to last for about 26 hours. At the Michigan shore, we ran into about 100 other boats doing the same. We found that the closer to shore the wave action was a little less.

At night, we really had to watch for other boats. At one point in time we sailed in between two disabled boats. We were making 7 knots to weather, so we passed these boats very fast. We did ask if we could help one boat and they said no.

As the sun came up, not much changed. The boat below was getting very wet. Everything seemed to be leaking. Before the race I though I had everything fixed that I could find that could leak. This eventually knocked out the instruments again. The problem was found in a junction box by the mast. It had gotten wet, so in 8 foot waves I took it apart and dried it as best as I could and brought back most of the instruments. The big waves also shook the boat breaker box loose, which we tried to fix but just didn't work.

We worked all the way up the lake under these conditions through the Manitou straits. The sun was again coming up on Monday morning we were still making about 6.5 knots. Then just south of the South Fox Island the wind died entirely. We saw little patches of wind on the water, and decided no matter what the course, we would go for them. We put John on the bow and he was spotting the these patches of wind. We named these lily pads, and we were like a frog jumping from lily pad to lily pad. This was hard considering what we had been through over the past two days.

These conditions lasted until about Sunset when the wind came up to about 15 knots, and we were about 10 miles from Grays Reef. or about 30 miles or so from the finish. These conditions were perfect sailing conditions, and we sailed to the finish at 2:49 in the morning. We finished in 6th out of 14 in our section. Not bad, when just finishing is a major accomplishment.