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Island Goat Sailing Society Celebrates 50th Anniversary Year

The Island Goat Sailing Society (IGSS) was formed in 1959 by thirteen veteran Chicago Yacht Club sailors to protect the history and memories of the annual Chicago to Mackinac Island Race, the world’s longest, continuously held fresh water race. Participation in 25 Mac Races was established as the requirement for membership.

Conducted annually in July by Chicago Yacht Club, the race starts off of Chicago and runs the length of Lake Michigan, under the Mackinac Bridge to finish between Windemere Point on Mackinac Island and the Round Island Lighthouse, 333 miles from the start. Over the years racers have seen every imaginable sailing condition from dead calm to raging storms. Each year’s race is different and each sailor’s memories varied. It’s the preservation of these memories and to provide an opportunity for the camaraderie of shared experiences that in 1959 became the germ to grow into an organization of almost 300 veteran Mac racers.

The Chicago Yacht Club now includes in each year’s Mac Race Scratch Sheet a list of Goats and the number of races each has competed in.

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Society’s founding. Affectionately referred to as the “Island Goats”, the name comes from the way some of the sailors are said to smell after being on the water for three, four or more days. It is also appropriate because goats are said to have once lived on Mackinac Island. And, of course the Race is to an island.

In 1959 the Island Goat Sailing Society established a citation of merit known as the Fresh Water Award to recognize individuals from the sailing community at large for meritorious service or outstanding contributions to off-shore sailing. Past recipients of this prestigious award include some of the fresh water sailing fraternity’s most respected members.

Beginning in 1970, each year the name of the Fastest Goat to the Island from each division is enshrined on a perpetual trophy displayed at Chicago Yacht Club. The trophy appropriately consists of a mounted Catalina Island goat head over name plates of the award winners.

Sailors competing in 50 Mac Races are also recognized as Master Mariners. This elite group currently numbers 8 hearty souls. And, annually, the Goat with the highest corrected time for the race is recognized with the Smoked Goat award.

The Island Goats also recognize boats that have sailed in 25 Mac Races as Goat Boats. Included as a Goat Boat is the USCGC Mackinaw (WAGB 83). The Mackinaw escorted the fleet 52 times before her retirement in 2006. In addition, 12 racing boats have made the trip 25 or more times.

Goats gather for four social events annually. A pre-race cocktail party in Chicago, a post-race cocktail party on Mackinac Island, a December Holiday party and a spring black-tie dinner to present awards and induct new Goats. A long standing tradition during induction is for new Goats to each share one of their most memorable experiences from a past Mac Race.

Where else can you have so much fun for an annual dues fee of $25?

While the Island Goats are all about sharing the camaraderie of sailing, as a service initiative, over the past 20 years IGSS members have contributed generously to the Mackinac Island Medical Center. And in 1979 the IGSS raised and donated $4,600 seed money to the Round Island Lighthouse Preservation Society for the restoration of the lighthouse at the finish line that has come to symbolize the Mac Race.

The start for the 2009 Mac Race, its 101st running is July 18th.

Membership in the Island Goat Sailing Society is voluntary. Potential new Goats must submit an application listing the years, boat names and boat owners of the 25 qualifying Races sailed.

Island Goat Sailing Society, its history, membership roster, past award winners and more, or to obtain a membership application go to:

Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac Island go to:

Gary Allie – IGSS Secretary, 2009
Island Goats Sailing Society Celebrates 50 Years at Gala Spring Dinner

Each spring the Island Goat Sailing Society holds a black-tie dinner to present awards and to induct new Goats. This spring brought a large turnout for this, the 50th anniversary of the Island Goats.

In 1959 the founders of the Island Goat Sailing Society established the Fresh Water Award to recognize meritorious service or outstanding contributions to off-shore sailing. For the many selfless hours contributed to off-shore racing Peter Reichelsdorfer was selected from several outstanding candidates as the 2009 recipient of the Fresh Water Award. Peter’s resume includes tours as Commodore of the University of Wisconsin Sailing Club, the Sheboygan YC, and the Lake Michigan Yacht Racing Federation. He has also served on numerous committees of US Sailing and is currently a representative for US Sailing on the Offshore Racing Congress and a Trustee and Treasurer of the Sailing Yacht Research Foundation. In addition Peter was a member of the 2002-2003 ISFA/RORC/US Sailing Grand Prix Working Party. Peter has competed in a 43 Chicago to Mackinac Island Races with his first in 1951.

Established in 1970, the Fastest Goats to the Island Award recognizes the Goat from each racing division with the fastest corrected time. For the 2008 Race, Fastest Goats were Bill Martin “Stripes” – Mackinac Cup Division: 1st Place, GL 70 Section 1st Place; and Roger Baske “Nana” – Chicago-Mackinac Trophy Division: 9th Place, Section 8: 1st Place.

Now if your idea of having fun is sailing on the Mackinac Race with your crew then one Goat each year has more fun than any other. To that Goat goes the Smoke Goat Award for the highest corrected time. The “winner” for the 2008 Race was John Beckstedt – “Wizo” 60 hours, 30 minutes, 32 seconds. As an ironic twist, John won The Fastest Goat Award for the 2007 Race.

“Water Works” owned by Rick Lillie and “Cahoots” owned by Tom Vigil were recognize as Goat Boats – boats having competed in 25 Mac Races. As a coincidence, both Rick and Tom were also inducted as new Goats this spring.

Twenty eight new Goats were inducted at the dinner. As the tradition of the Island Goat Sailing Society dictates, each new Goat tells a story about their most memorable Mac experience. This year’s new Goats’ stories ran from the bitter sweet remembrance of a father who would have loved to live to see his son inducted into the Goats to a harrowing tale of a night time storm complete with dismasting and a helicopter rescue of injured crewmembers.

There are several father-son, a husband-wife and even father-daughter Goats. However, 2009 marked the first simultaneous induction of a father and daughter into Goatdom when John and Karen Gottwald became Island Goats. Also inducted were brothers Jim and Don Rodenkirk.

Introduction of new Flag Officers for 2009-2011 were made as well: Commodore – Jack Kunze; Vice Commodore – Larry Kwiat, Treasurer – Peter Barrett; Secretary – Gary Allie; and Past Commodore – Jamie Lowe.

Island Goat’s 50th Anniversary Celebration Continues

The 50th anniversary of the founding of the Island Goat Sailing Society will continue throughout 2009. On July 17th the IGSS will host a pre-race cocktail party for Goats and their guests on the fantail of the Columbia Yacht Club club ship. The Naperville Fire Department Bagpiper Band will be part of the festivities. Even for those not attending, the distinctive bagpipe scurl is sure to be heard all across Monroe Street Harbor by the many visiting yachtsmen.

On Tuesday after the race the Goats will gather again for cocktails on the porch of the Island House on Mackinac Island to relive this 101st Chicago-Mackinac Race. New memories will sure to be exchanged and each of the 333 miles of the race re-sailed many times.

The anniversary year will conclude with an early-December holiday party at the Chicago Yacht Club. With boats on their cradles for the winter and snow likely to be on the ground, tales of Macs past will keep enthusiasm for this unique race and for the camaraderie the Island Goats alive for the long winter.

Long Live the Goats!

Island Goat Sailing Society, its history, membership roster, past award winners and more, or to obtain a membership application go to:

Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac Island go to:

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