The 2023 Milwaukegan is in the books and the weather turned out to be nearly perfect. There were few rain drops and flakey winds for a couple of hours, but 14 out of 15 participants finished the race under sail. But that was not the expectation of many of the racers.
The forecast was troubling for the 10 days leading up to the start of the race. Predictions changed daily calling for N, NE or NW winds in the morning, anywhere from 5 to 20 knots. Some weather sources said the winds would shift around all day making the planning and strategy of the racers a crazy quilt of options. Fortunately, the reality was far different.
On Saturday morning, the sun rose to greet a NW wind of 8-10 knots. Racers started to gather east of Waukegan harbor on the starting line. Sails were raised and boats started milling about checking the best tack and position to cross. A few minutes before the first warning at 0755, there was a moment of dread as the wind shifted briefly to the north. This would have made crossing the starting line, set at 090º from the #3 buoy, a challenge, but the wind settled out back to the NW just before the first horn sounded.
At 0800, the Short-handed and Cruising sections crossed the line and the third Milwaukegan race was on! The PHRF 2 section crossed the line at 0805. Then, the PHRF 1 section crossed at 0810. The overcast skies promised consistent winds for the moment, but blue skies off to the west threatened a different story. How many sailors have been out on the water in a brisk wind under heavy overcast only to have the wind depart as the clouds did? By 1400, the flat gray clouds parted and were replaced by puffy white cumuli, but the wind remained steady from the NW, although that was not the end of the story.
By the time the racers had already made the turn at Wind Point the wind did change. First, it shifted to the NW. Then to the north. Around 1500, the wind clocked completely around to the SE. This was a welcome change, allowing several racers to pop chutes and finished the race running downhill as in 2021.
The first racer to cross the finish line was Defiance, who finished just before 1400. The last boat across the line finished at 1840. Out of 17 boats registered, 15 started the race and 14 finished. A proud record for 2023!
Overall, there was a great welcome in Waukegan and a wonderful finish in Milwaukee. MYC continued the tradition of the Milwaukegan by offering free beer to all racers!
Thanks to Waukegan and Milwaukee Yacht Clubs for another great race!