2015 Race to Mackinac draws sailors to Chicago

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Some of the best sailors in the world are gathering in Chicago this week for the start of the annual Race to Mackinac. (WLS)

Some of the best sailors in the world are gathering in Chicago this week for the start of the annual Race to Mackinac. The first Chicago-to-Mackinac sailboat race took place 117 years ago.

Craig Warner, a crew member on "Sealark", and Captain Clark Pellett call themselves the old goats. They have both been in over 30 Chicago-to-Mackinac races. And with the start of the Mac this Saturday, it's time to load the equipment that can save lives.

"There's probably a list of close to a hundred items of safety equipment," Warner said.

"There's a regulation check list that the yacht club issues for every boat," Pellett said.

For the Chicago Yacht Club, this is the 107th running of the Mac. Several years were missed because of war, and needless to say, times have changed. It used to be all wooden boats with ancient technology. That has changed, but the feeling of being on the lake for several days has not.

"You have to experience the sport. You know, guys who love sailing. They like being out on the lake. They like nature. They like the physics of what makes the boat go," Warner said.

It's 333 miles from Chicago to Mackinac. In all kinds of weather, it's a race that could last from 30 hours to several days.

"There's nothing better than this race. This is one of the most amazing human experiences. You get out in the middle of the lake and the world just melts away and you look up and see the Milky Way in all its glory," Pellett said.

In 2011, a huge storm blew up from out of nowhere and unfortunately two people died. But since then, there have been many safety improvements, like safety vests that inflate on their own.

"It will inflate if you fall in the water on its own in case you're injured. It has superior buoyancy over the old life vests. It has a built in strobe light for at night so we can see your signal at night," Warner said.

On Saturday, 324 boats will set sail. It's a sporting event even old goats can win.

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