Windquest is first to finish race to Mackinac

Originally posted in Chicago Sun Times on July 18, 2011

Windquest found more wind than expected and took first-to-finish honors Sunday in the 103rd Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac.

The Max-Z86, owned by brothers Dick and Doug DeVos, crossed at 5:55:21 p.m. Sunday. At 27 hours, 35 minutes, 21 seconds, the 86-foot canting keeler out of Macatawa Bay Yacht Club in Michigan finished very fast in the annual 333-mile race from Chicago to Mackinac Island, Mich.

‘‘It ended up being a little faster than expected,’’ Doug DeVos said. ‘‘It was a little better at the beginning. We were up to get away from Chicago. The transitions were faster than we thought.

‘‘We went up the Wisconsin [coast] through Racine, then across the lake. We didn’t make landfall until Point Betsy [on the Michigan side]. We were more in the lake and Wisconsin than usual. There was more wind on the western shore.’’

Though fast, Windquest’s time fell short of the monohull record. Roy Disney set that mark of 23:30:34 with Pye-wacket in 2002. Steve Fossett set the multihull record at 18:50:32 with Stars and Stripes in 1998.

Doug DeVos said he doubted Windquest would take overall honors in the handicapped race, which he and his brother did in 2007, 1994 and 1979 (with another boat).

‘‘We need to get a bit lucky,’’ he said. ‘‘It feels like the breeze is [more] consistent now coming down the Straits [of Mackinac]. It is very favorable for the boats behind us. Like any sporting event, there is luck involved. .  .  . We did OK so far; we got here. We have to wait for the rest [of the fleet].’’

The race was fast enough that, for the first time, several boats in the 51-entry cruising division, which sailed Friday from Chicago, finished before the racers. The first cruiser to cross was Chicagoan Carl Chaleff’s Princess M at 3:39:56 p.m. Sunday in a time of 48:29:56.

The racing divisions, which make up the bulk of the 361-boat fleet, set sail Saturday. This Mac should finish by Tuesday. Boats in each section have 24 hours to finish after the first boat in their section
arrives. First boats in all sections should arrive by today, though storms might affect some of the later boats.

Father Jerry and son Shawn O’Neill aboard Eagle, their Sydney 38 that won overall Mac honors previously, told race staff they enjoyed 18 to 20 knots of southerly breeze and a great kite ride early Sunday.

‘‘Champagne sailing; a lovely day for a Veuve Clicquot!’’ they said in describing a fast run.

The online tracking malfunctioned late Saturday, so following the fleet reverted to old-school methods: word from the Coast Guard and reports from skippers and friends.