The Team Makes It Happen!

Nov 29, 2023

By Roger Renaud

Photo L-R: Jeff Love, Kevin Brown, Mark McGinnis

Chicago Yacht Club’s most famous event is the 289-nautical mile race from the Chicago Yacht Club at the bottom of Lake Michigan, to Mackinac Island, at the top – the longest freshwater sailing race in the world. Kevin Brown, and two of the notorious crew of a boat named “Notorious”, a Farr 30, sailed out of the Mimico Sailing Club, Toronto, were in Chicago November 4th, 2023, to hug their trophy, and pick up their first-place flag, for their division/section of the 114th Race to Mackinac.

This race has been on the team’s bucket list and together they made it happen. Notorious won their class in the 2022 Bayview – Mac, and sailed many successful Lake Ontario 300 races, but never a distance race on Lake Michigan.

This crew have sailed together, as a team, so they know each other well. They also know the boat, they have set routines, and they know how to have fun and make the boat go fast. The core of the crew, Kevin Brown, Mark McGinnis, Jeff Love, and Robert Wigny, have been together for over 10 years. Brandon Bedard and Mark Donohue joined six years ago. To keep this team together for this race, Mark Donohue flew in from Singapore for the race.

“We did Bayview last year and figured let’s do Chicago while we had a keen crew and a trailer boat”, Mark McGinnis explained. “This was not a quick decision; there was a lot of work going through race documents to see if the boat could meet the various safety checks. We needed to buy an EPIRB and new personal AIS transmitters, but we were relieved to learn we didn’t need to stuff a life raft into that little boat. We also had to renew our safety at sea courses and take first aid courses. The race organizers were picky about crew resumes, since it was a small boat and small crew, they wanted to be sure everyone had practical experience.” The Chicago Yacht Club take sailor and boat safety pretty seriously. 

In addition to the race planning, there were the logistics involved with getting the boat to Chicago and launching there, and hauling at Mackinac, after the race. The team towed the boat from Toronto to Chicago. Saturday morning, after launching the boat, wives and GF’s, took the truck, trailer, and a chase car, up to Mackinac City, and left the truck/trailer for team to haul out after finishing. Mark says: – “Chicago YC was awesome. They let us use their cranes at Belmont station to launch the boat and step the mast, and then a dock for the prep time, without charge. They were as welcoming as a club could be for an out-of-town entry.”

This level of team spirit, enthusiasm and commitment, is the stuff that wins races. Kevin and his Notorious Team, prove this fact. These guys are the utopia when it comes to long-time sailing teams. They are a group of long-time friends who sail very well together as a team. They go out and win races and have fun doing it.

Notorious sailed in Section 7 ORC division. Their section was mostly 35-to-40-foot boats; Notorious was the short one in the group. Rating-wise, they were in the middle of the band.

Mark reports “Late Saturday afternoon was fun. Lots of wind shifts so changing gears gave you opportunity to gain positions and then it settled into a spinnaker run straight down the rhumb line. We were boat to boat with the Italia and the J112’s. The TP52’s and big sleds came through the fleet before sunset.

“For me there were two highlights during the race. Saturday evening gybing through the Manitou passage. It was flat water, a nice breeze… perfect conditions for a pleasant sail but playing with a bunch of large fast boats. Would have been a perfect evening cruise if we had beer. Between the bridge and the finish, we were a little behind a Farr 395 named Imagine. We started gybing on every shift to try and grind him down, but careful to never get on his breeze and mess up his finish time. Just a bit of fun to put the crew into course racing mode after two days of short-handed straight-line sailing. We beat him by a half boat length at the line… we finished 4 seconds apart.”

Congratulations Team Notorious!

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