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Having A Blast On The Great Lakes

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  • Having A Blast On The Great Lakes

    By Laura Muma

    In one punch after another, storm cells rocked the racing and cruising divisions throughout Saturday night during the 113th Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac presented by Wintrust. The predicted storms not only came to fruition, but they also continued throughout the night in rapid succession.

    As of 11 a.m. CDT, 15 boats have officially retired, reporting ripped main sails, exploded spinnakers, and broken equipment, but no serious injuries. Earlier in the day prior to the weather, a few other boats retired from on-board minor injuries and equipment issues.

    In speaking with Chris Bedford, CYCRTM weather router, what happened last night was a unique event. “We went through a mesoscale convective system (MCS),” he said.

    For non-weather gurus, an MCS equates to a large mass of thunderstorms, which moved across Lake Michigan from the Wisconsin shore. “But what made last night extra unique, is it that the first mass was then followed by another one early this morning. From preliminary reports, it appears the first round was probably most impactful with strongest wind gusts between 45 to 55 knots.”

    The Racing and Cruising divisions experienced the storm systems in very different ways. The Cruising Division had nearly a 24-hour head start and was already further north in the lake near Ludington and Manistee, Mich.; the Racing Division boats were located between Milwaukee, Wis., and Grand Rapids, Mich.

    When the first round of storms hit, the winds shifted dramatically from south to north for the Racing boats. The Cruising Division’s version got more of a push from the south, further propelling them up the Michigan shoreline. Earlier this morning, a social media report from Rocky Levy on board Dakota, the second boat to finish in Cruising 1 said: “We’ve had 50-knot winds knock us down and a bunch of things broke, but not our spirits! Almost there!”

    Bedford said that while storms like this are not uncommon to occur in the summertime, he doesn’t recall a whole night of storms like this. “Usually, it’s a one and done kind of thing, but this year it was something we refer to as training, which is one storm after another.

    “I don’t blame anybody that decided to withdraw. There is nothing to say in the randomness of weather it couldn’t have been worse.”

    Sam Veilleux, chairman for 113th CYCRTM underscored Bedford. “Ultimately the goal with our safety protocols and requirements is to help prepare our sailors and boats for situations like this with confidence.

    “Chris’s advance weather briefings clearly outlined the impending weather to our racers, allowing them to make informed decisions in the best interest for both the crews and their boats,” Veilleux said.

    Looking ahead
    “This system more or less cleared everything off the lake,” said Bedford. “The fleet should be running in nice south-westerly conditions right now, but we are looking for a cold front to come down from the northern portion of the lake and shift winds into the NW this afternoon and evening.”
    This year’s CYCRTM is shaping up to be one of the most memorable races in decades. Already the majority of the Cruising Division is flying through the Straits headed toward the finish, and the leaders in the Racing Division should begin finishing around happy hour.

    To follow the racers in real time, check out the YB Trackers, and the latest on finishers and unofficial scoring is available here.

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