Feature Article

Purdue Calumet boater completes his 19th Mackinac Race

By SUE ELLEN ROSS
BRIDGE Editor

Curtis Brown
Curtis Brown

Curtis Brown has been a sailboat enthusiast for many years. And the annual, “Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac”, which takes place on Lake Michigan each summer, is one competition he hasn’t missed for almost two decades.

“The weather was great this year, calm and peaceful,” the Purdue Calumet projects manager said of last month’s contest. “We finished in 44 hours, our best time ever.” This was in comparison with last year’s completion of 52 hours, and not-so-great weather conditions, he added.

Each year of the race brings with it unknown tests, as all is dependent on the weather conditions. No less important is planning for those unforeseen circumstances, both physically and emotionally.

Brown is just as passionate about sailboat racing today as he was when he first began as a teenager.
His initial entrance into the world of this hobby on the water happened with his older brother, a two-man sailboat and calm seas. “It was a perfect day to be on the water,” he said. “I became hooked.”

This soon became his hobby of choice and he learned all there was to know about preparing a sailboat for both leisure outings and race competition. Books, articles, and advice from seasoned boating veterans became part of the learning process.

Fast forward to July 2012.

St. Francis, 35-foot sailboat
St. Francis, 35-foot sailboat

Brown and his nine crewmates on the 35-foot sailboat, “St. Francis”, just finished the popular Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac Island, also known as the Mac Race. This wasn’t the first time this particular boat, with owner Dr. Jairo Cruz of St. Francis Hospital in Chicago, entered this contest. It was the boat’s 19th foray into the challenge to finish the 333-mile race from Chicago to Michigan. And Brown has been on board each year.

This year marks the 104th anniversary for the popular race, and this year’s numbers were impressive. Although considered an amateur event, sailors of all experience levels registered from 15 states in the United States, as well as outside counties such as Canada, Switzerland, and Hong Kong. A total of almost 3,000 sailors participated, with 326 boats entered.

Lou Sandoval of Chicago was chairman of the 2012 competition. “This year’s race was a great display of tactical prowess – combined with perseverance – for many of the sailing crews that competed,” he said. “From a race organizer’s point of view, I am thrilled. The 100 percent completion rate is a testament to our competitors’ preparation.”

Curtis Brown (bottom-left) with crewmates
Curtis Brown (bottom-left) with crewmates

Sandoval’s comments echo the dedication of sailors of all levels in this sport, and Brown, for one, knows that preparation is only half of the equation. Knowing exactly what to do in an emergency is key, but keeping yourself in a calm state to do what needs to be done is equally important, Brown adds.

Sailboats on Lake Michigan
Sailboats on Lake Michigan

“I’ve learned that this is an endurance race,” he said. “I love the challenge; it’s you against the wind. We (our team members) never give up, we do not quit.”