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RACE TO MACKINAC: Sailors reveal what’s in their Mac packs

Dave Sim(left) Ryan Farrell Ted Szalkowski chill before start 105th Chicago Yacht Club Race Mackinac.  |  Dale Bowman~For

Dave Simon (left), Ryan Farrell and Ted Szalkowski chill before the start of the 105th Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac. | Dale Bowman~For Sun-Times Media

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Race to Mackinac

What: The 105th sailing of the world’s oldest freshwater distance race, 333 statute miles (289.4 nautical miles), from Chicago to Mackinac Island, Mich.

Who: About 3,500 sailors on about 350 boats.

When: Cruising division sailed Friday; bulk of the fleet sailed Saturday.

Course: Starts east of Navy Pier, ends at the line between the lighthouse on Round Island and the race committee trailer on Mackinac Island.

They can be spotted by their garb as they cross Lake Shore Drive. Man or woman, they sport caps or hats and wear T-shirts, shorts and dock shoes. Usually, a single overstuffed backpack or duffel bag is over the shoulder or in hand.

Casual chic.

Some 3,500 sailors pile into the Chicago lakefront the Friday and Saturday of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac.

The 105th Mac set sail Friday and Saturday on the 333-mile race to Mackinac Island, Mich. Even in a year like this with expected light winds and a slow sail, the first boats should arrive Sunday night at the island.

So what do sailors deem important enough to stuff into their one bag?

‘‘Foul-weather clothing, unless it is already on the boat,’’ is the first thing Ted Szalkowski said.

Lake Michigan is no respecter of person or yacht, and being prepared is far more important than looking sharp.

Szalkowski, Dave Simon and Ryan Farrell were both looking sharp and lounging on the “Fast Tango” on Friday morning, prepping for the race. They crew on the 42-footer, which won the Mac overall title two years ago.

After putting foul-weather gear first, they listed a change of clothes and underwear as the other commonly stashed items in the bag, along with some wear for cool nights: long pants, long shirt and a light jacket.

That’s not a lot of clothing for several days. So what happens in a year like this, when it could be a race of several days?

‘‘You just smell worse than you did the day before,’’ Szalkowski said.

All three laughed knowingly.

‘‘You can take a shower, put a bucket in the water and soap up,’’ Szalkowski said. ‘‘You don’t want to jump in the water.’’

That could force the boat to slow or turn to collect or rescue the swimmer/bather. This looks like a year when showers after a long, slow sail will feel like a rescue.

‘‘We’re looking at fairly light to moderate winds at best,’’ Szalkowski said.

That’s the kind of sail to test the chicness of the best.

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