Track the Boats on the Chicago to Mackinac Race!

The world’s oldest annual freshwater distance race, the Chicago to Mackinac, stretches 333  miles (289.4 nautical miles) across Lake Michigan. While much of the race is well away from land, folks can still follow the action thanks to tracking technology used by the Chicago Yacht Club. MyNorth asked Jay Muller, a member of the Mackinac Committee, to fill us in on the super cool beam-me-up-Scotty system.

Go to and choose “race tracking” link to follow the fleet as they cross Lake Michigan.

MyNorth: How does the electronic tracking system work?

Jay Muller: Each boat in the race has a transponder that uploads position and boat speed information every 15 minutes to orbiting Iridium satellites. A ‘snapshot’ is posted on the race viewer every hour showing each boat’s location on a map of Lake Michigan.

MyNorth: What information is provided?

Jay Muller: Boat name, boat speed in knots, course over ground, Lat/Lon location, and boat trail. Additionally, you can choose individual boats and/or sections and see how a particular fleet is doing in relation to each other.

MyNorth: Race tracking technology has changed the race from a start-and-finish-line-only spectator event. In what ways is that good for Great Lakes sailboat racing?

Jay Muller: The Chicago Yacht Club has long been a pioneer in tracking sailboat races. With over 475,000 hits on last year’s race, our transponder program will make the 102nd Race an event both participants and family and friends—as well as millions of spectators-around the world—can enjoy from start to finish.

Heading to Mackinac Island to watch the boats come in? Find your hotelrestaurants and fun things to do on the island!