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2021 Race To Mackinac Island Begins After Last Year Canceled Due To COVID-19

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Friday brought a spectacular sight at Navy Pier as dozens of boats lined up for the Chicago Yacht Club's Race to Mackinac Island Michigan began.

The cruising division got underway Friday afternoon, and sailboats begin Saturday before sailing across Lake Michigan.

The Race to Mackinac started in 1898 with just five boats. More than 120 years later hundreds of sailors are prepping to set sail once again.

"I've probably got 12 Chicago Mac races, 20 Trans Superiors, which is the most anyone has done said sailor Keith Stauber.

It will be hard to miss Stauber and his crew from shore. Just look for their matching pants.

"Everybody always teased him for it," said Madeline Stauber.

"I've worn them sailing for my entire life," said Keith.

"This year we decided instead of getting crew shirts, we decided to get Zubaz," said Madeline.

The team spirit and the chance to compete drew them from Duluth, Minnesota, and hundreds from around the country.

"We've seen people from as far as Rhode Island," said Madeline Stauber.

CBS 2 met sailors from Texas to Florida, where sailing legend Gene McCarthy voyaged from.

"I've been fortunate enough to sail 65 Chicago Mackinac sailboat races, and I've been tied with a fellow who recently passed away," said McCarthy.

When he gets to the island, McCarthy will tie with the late John Nedeau for sailing Chicago's race to Mackinac the most times -- an early birthday gift to himself.

"I'm 92 right now, and in nine days I'll be 93," he said.

He and everyone else had to put their racing on hold last year for the pandemic.

"It's disappointing, but I kind of understand," he said. "We're relying on the wind. We're relying on the weather. We all know that weather changes no matter what you're doing."

In other words, adapting is the way of life for a sailor, which is why even with light winds predicted to make a slow race this year, just being able to compete is already a win.

"There will never not be smiles on our boat," Keith said. "Our family wanted to do it. I'm 69 years old. I don't know how many more of these I have in me, so we're doing it."

There are 240 boats set to take sail on this race to Mackinac Island.

The best place to watch them as they head out is the end of Navy Pier from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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