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Chicago-Mackinac: Longest annual freshwater race starts Saturday; a "proper" hotel on Mack


CHICAGO – The 109th Chicago to Mackinac Race, the oldest annual freshwater distance race in the world, starts next Saturday, July 15th off Chicago's Navy Pier. The 333 statute mile race (289.4 nautical miles) organized by Chicago Yacht Club ends at a finish line off Mackinac Island in the Straits of Mackinac between Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas. For the 2017 edition over 300 teams have entered for what is normally a challenging but safe race. However, in 2011 a vicious storm hit the fleet in the northern part of Lake Michigan, damaging many of the yachts and tragically resulting in the death of two sailors. These were the first racing-related deaths in this long-running and popular race, and not just for Great Lakes sailors, first held in 1898.

Michiganders like your Ed., who is originally from Ann Arbor, will know that the proper pronunciation is MACK-in-aw, not MACK-in-ack as many sailors still call it – even those who know better. Those of our Dear Readers curious about the etymology of this Native American name, and how it was influenced by the French fur traders and later the British, can read about that arcane topic on Wikipedia here.

Speaking of Mackinac Island, the world famous Grand Hotel turns 130 years old today. It is reputed to have the world's longest front porch, and since the late 1800s has been the venue for countless high-end weddings, corporate meetings, new product demos (including the first public showing of Thomas Edison's original phonograph), diplomatic discussions, and, yes, Mac Race after-parties.

Mackinac's Grand Hotel, as seen from the lake. The 200m (660 ft) front porch is reputed to be the longest in the world.

As our friends at the Fort Worth Boat Club would say, the Grand Hotel is proper – meaning, of course, that only ladies and gentleman are welcome, and then only in proper attire....

A proper hotel if ever there was one.

SAILING ILLUSTRATED is planning special coverage of the Chi-Mac with the help of a number of our Dear Readers who plan to race promising photos and videos from start to finish, and even at the race-end festivities at Mackinac Island. It will be a busy week, as next week we will also be covering the 51st annual running of the prestigious Governor's Cup at Balboa Yacht Club live from Newport Beach, CA. Stay tuned here to SI and to our Facebook Page.