Special from Grand Rapids Press / MLive.com
Only 13 of the 437 boats registered in the 100th Chicago to Mackinac race scheduled to begin Saturday will be skippered by women. And only one of those is a rookie — Sarah Weersing, who grew up in Grand Rapids and spent her first two years of high school at Northview.
Weersing, 37, who now lives in Chicago and works as an attorney specializing in mergers and acquisitions, has sailed six times in the Chicago to Mackinac race, which is the world’s longest freshwater race, but this year she will skipper Lane 4, a 35-foot J105 that she recently purchased with a friend, Bill Mathis.
The name of Weersing’s boat reflects her history as a competitive swimmer at Northview and later at Northwestern University. The fourth lane in a pool is reserved for the fastest, or the favored, swimmer in a race.
“I was a competitive swimmer for 16 years, and when I was growing up my family had various boats at Macatawa Bay,” Weersing said. “I didn’t really get into racing, though, until after I moved to Chicago. I have always liked sailing and Chicago has such phenomenal access to the lake.
“The sailing bug hit me hard when I moved here. Two or three years ago I started to think about owning my own race boat. For years I had owned a sailboat, but it was not a racing boat.”
Weersing follows a long line of women who have skippered boats in the race. The first was Evelyn Wright, who led an all-female crew aboard the Lady Eileen in 1905.
“I am so excited about it,” she said. “I don’t think I would skipper a boat in the Mackinac race without having sailed it before. Now I am responsible for the other people on the boat, but my crew is phenomenal.
“They are good friends and really good sailors.”
Weersing will be joined aboard Lane 4 by Chicago-area sailors Mathis, Mike Brown, Laura Smith, Barry Trudelle and Bryan Kapala.
Weersing’s preparation for the Chicago to Mackinac race was complicated by a collision while racing June 28.
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