CHICAGO (CBS) – Friday was a big day for sail boating aficionados as hundreds of boats gathered to make the long trek to Mackinac Island as part of the 113th edition of an annual race.
This year, over 2,100 sailors from all over the country are participating.
Organizers told CBS 2’s Marybel Gonzalez there are over 11 countries also represented in the race.
The event draws people from all levels, amateurs and professionals. The youngest sailor is only 14 years old.
For some, like the Kent sisters from Wisconsin, the race has been a family tradition since they were babies. They said sailing has been a sport that taught them valuable life lessons.
“One of the biggest things is teamwork and respecting your crewmates and being a good crew member, someone people can trust and not take things too seriously and have fun,” said Allison Kent, a sailor. “It’s more fun to race with your friends.”
The sisters said they love the sport so much that they opened up their own school in Wisconsin to help train other young sailors.
They will set sail along with the other racers Saturday morning and expect to make the more than 300-mile trek by Monday afternoon.
The race was canceled in 2020, marking the second time that happened in its more than 100-year history.
The one other time was due in part to the Spanish Flu pandemic, according to organizers.
But the headaches may not be over for the sailors.
This weekend, they’re expecting storms out on the Lake Michigan waters.
Sailors were briefed on what could go wrong and how to best prepare for the changing conditions.
“You have to remember they also have big sails hanging up in the air so the wind against the sails, that’s the idea, we want that,” said Chris Bedford, meteorologist for the Race to Mackinac. “That’s what will propel us to the island, but at the same time, if it’s too much or if it changes very abruptly, it can be a very hazardous situation.”
The fleet of sailors will be followed by members of the Coast Guard the entire 333 miles to Mackinac Island in case of emergencies.