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Possible Upset in Mac Race

Note: The corrected times are in for the Section 2 racers, and Spirit Walker finished first. The wind shifted at the end of the race, and Flash Gordon 5’s finished fifth. Congratulations to all yachts that finished this long race.

The first boat over the finish line in the 101st Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac was Dogdayz with a finish time at 07:50:04,  and an elapsed time of 64:40:04. However, that isn’t the only news about this year’s race. Architect Helmut Jahn‘s contrarian strategy may pay off for his Farr40, Flash Gordon 5. Winds are light on the east side of Lake Michigan where most of the boats are sailing. Jahn set a different course, and while that usually isn’t effective, this year it may be a winning idea.

Boats in the Mac race are grouped by size and class because sailboats have speed limitations based on their hull size and the amount of sail they can carry. Boats within each class are very similar.

Flash Gordon 5 sails on a different tack
Flash Gordon 5 sails on a different tack

Weather and water conditions are generally similar for boats sailing near one another, so performance differences in a long race like the Mac race, come down to equipment, sail trim, boat handling and strategy decisions by the skipper and crew. Normally, boats in any class end up in a cluster around each other because they all react so similarly to wind, sea, and weather conditions.

This year, Helmut Jahn’s, Farr40, Flash Gordon 5, is far ahead of all the other boats in its class because of a bold decision to set out on different tack than the rest of the fleet.

Helmut Jahn's Flash Gordon 5 on its bold course
Helmut Jahn's Flash Gordon 5 on its bold course

Instead of going up the Michigan (east) side of the lake, the Flash Gordon 5 sailed up the Wisconsin (west) side. This tactic has been taken in other races, but often it doesn’t pan out, and the main part of the fleet arrives long before any outliers.

The rest of the boats in Section 02
The rest of the boats in Section 02

This year, the Wisconsin tack may pay off. As of noon, Flash Gordon 5 is 51.6 nautical miles from Mackinaw and the finish line. The rest of this class, the Section 02 boats, are about 80 nautical miles out.

See all descriptions of all the boats, or check out the GPS powered iboattracker site to track the fleet, a class of boats, and your favorites.

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