A couple of days ago I was chatting with customer in the store. Our conversation, as are many conversations this week, was about the Mac race. I told this fine gentleman that I’d be missing the race this year due to work obligations that popped up last minute. The immediate response was, “Oh, that’s too bad!” It was like my dog just died.
As disappointed as I am to miss the race this year I’ve come to grips with reality and moved on, I think. “It’s just a sailboat race” I whimpered. Without hesitation, as if a programmed response, and in the most sincere tone I’ve ever heard he said, “But it’s a special one.” That’s when I realized, this really is a special race to so many people.
Being on the supply side of the race and someone that provides specialized parts, I see the madness. Oh, the madness is real. Customers transform from stunned and desperate to grins and giggles in a matter of minutes if not seconds when they realize I can next day a part that they absolutely must have to do the race. You’d think someone had just cured a terminal disease.
I’ll never forget finishing my first Mac. Over 72 exciting, frustrating, and sun burnt hours. As is the tradition, when we tied up at the dock we frantically yelled at the crew to run, literally run, to get a bag of ice for rum drinks and then immediately proceeded to jump in the almost frigid waters that surround the island. It was an amazing feeling.
I’m very grateful it was a hot summer and the water actually felt good. For those of you doing your first race and who will follow tradition, have a heating blanket ready to go. It’s going to be cold. Rum helps too.
I’ve heard so many strange comments about the Mac race working in the boating industry. “I hate this race.” “I live for this.” “I hate boats, water, and everything to do with them.” “It’s ok. We pretty much have to do it for the crew.”
My favorite comment was passed on from a friend. Her father had just won their section and he was full of uncontained joy. He told his daughter, “This is the greatest thing that’s ever happened next to the birth of my children.”
Now, it’s been a few years since I’ve heard that story. I could be mistaken. The quote may have changed ever so slightly in my head. Either way, the Chicago Race to Mackinac is something truly special.
To every sailor out there, when the flies start biting, the sun and sweat sting, and when the weather rolls in to challenge you, remember, you’re a part of something special. Sail fast. Sail safe.
For you newbies, stay out of the hot tub. You don’t want to go there. You’ll see.