VIDEO: First boats complete Race to Mackinac

The first boats finished the annual sailboat race from Chicago's Navy Pier to northern Michigan's Mackinac Island.
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The first boats finished the annual sailboat race from Chicago's Navy Pier to northern Michigan's Mackinac Island.

Results posted on the Chicago Yacht Club's website say Windquest, owned by Dick and Doug DeVos, was the first across the finish line early this morning, followed a few minutes later by Il Mostro. The boats in the racing division took nearly 36 hours to reach the island, according to the Associated Press.

More than 300 boats were participating in the 333-mile race. Those in the racing division headed for Mackinac Island on Saturday with a light lake wind. A cruising division set sail Friday.

The event is the oldest annual freshwater distance race in the world. Winners are determined based on a handicapping system.

Sailors gathered Wednesday to participate in the annual race, launched 117 years ago, according to ABC 7 in Chicago.

It's 333 miles from Chicago to Mackinac. Held in all kinds of weather, the race could last from 30 hours to several days.

In 2011 a huge storm blew up from out of nowhere, killing two. Robert Arzbaecher, the CEO of Actuant Corp., at the time, and his crew rescued six of those sailors in the middle of the night, which he recounted to Trade Only in a 2012 Q&A.

“There was a very large storm in the middle of the night, and as we came out of the storm we heard a whistle and saw a faint light, probably about a half-mile away. We diverted from the race to go over there and found a boat upside-down. We rescued six people that were on board; there were two missing,” Arzbaecher said. “It turned out the two that were missing were harnessed underneath, so there was nothing that we could’ve done about that. But the boat had totally turtled, and so we spent most of the night out there waiting for the Coast Guard and keeping the guys warm and ended up taking them to Charlevoix, Mich. That was the end of our ‘Mac’ for that year. We were really at the right place at the right time and alert enough to hear the whistle and see the light.”

Since then, several safety improvements have been made.

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