Race to Mackinac boaters not deterred by Branson accident

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Preparations were underway Friday for a challenging tradition - the 110th Race to Mackinac Island.

The cruising division set sail Friday, and other divisions will leave Saturday.

Valerie Bucholtz, of Team Surface Tension, said she has been watching forecasts that call for wind and rain.

"Things could break, things could tweak, things could bend. There's always that fear on a big beat," Bucholtz said.

"We stay clipped in as they go forward," Bucholtz said. "We wear life jackets always."

Team Surface Tension skipper Shawn Pautz said that although the teams expects big waves and heavy air, they're ready.

"Every two hours we change the driver out, every four hours we change the crew," Pautz said.

Experienced Navigator Ron White said he isn't expecting the worst, but the race has not been ideal over the past two years.

"For the Saturday starters, they're looking at six to eight foot waves at the start. And that's not really a fun way to get going," White said.

Seven years ago, high winds, rough waters, and mechanical failures capsized a boat in the race. Two sailors were killed and six more had to be rescued.

Lou Sandoval says crews focused on safety won't have a problem.

"You try to not make any risky moves and you're strapped in, tethered during the heavier periods," Sandoval said.

The racing boats take off Saturday at 10 a.m.
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