Northern Michigan Events: 2011 Chicago to Mackinac Island Race

Northern Michigan Events: The 103rd annual 333-mile race from Chicago to Mackinac Island, commonly called "The Mac", is the oldest annual freshwater distance yacht race in the world and it is a thrilling event for participants and spectators alike. About 335 sailboats, manned by approximately 3,500 crew members will take off from Chicago’s Navy Pier on July 16th and sail all the way to Mackinac Island.

Sailors will navigate the freshwater sea around the clock before reaching Mackinac Island, where winners will be awarded a plaque, a flag and most importantly, coveted bragging rights.

If you want a piece of the sailing action, there are plenty of opportunities to watch the race, whether you want to get up-close-and-personal or watch while you picnic on the shore. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Opening day, July 16th, head to Chicago to watch The Parade of Boats off of Navy Pier (600 E Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL , 60611) at 10:00 am. Bring some binoculars and stay for the start of the race!
  • Those who want to dive right into the action can take a tour on the Red Witch to watch the start of the race from the water on a fun and informative spectator cruise. To find out more or to make reservations, click here
  • Pick a bluff on Michigan’s western shore and watch the sails breeze by. Some favorite spots? The scenic turnout on M-22 in Arcadia and Pyramid Point in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
  • Head to Mackinac Island and congregate near the Iroquois Hotel as the finish line of the race is between Round Island Lighthouse and the western end of the Mackinac Island Harbor. Click here to plan your visit to Mackinac Island.
  • After-race fun is in the Pink Pony, a lively bar on Main St. of Mackinac Island where the tired (and thirsty) sailors have been known to go to unwind and have a little fun.
  • Those who can’t follow the yachts in person can simply follow them on Twitter and facebook instead! Follow @RacetoMackinac on twitter and become a fan of
  • You can also track the progress of boats from home by visiting and clicking Race Tracking.
For news on more Northern Michigan events, click here.