Jack Buoscio had quite a weekend. The 57-year-old resident of Riverside spent those days on a 36 foot long sailboat on Lake Michigan racing 289.4 nautical miles from Chicago to Mackinac Island, Michigan in the annual Chicago to Mac sailboat race sponsored by the Chicago Yacht Club. The boat that Buoscio was on won its classification coming from behind to win by a little less than 13 minutes.
It was Buoscio’s 21st Mac and his 10th win.
“It feels awesome,” Buoscio said in a telephone interview with the Landmark Monday afternoon from Mackinac Island. “It’s my 10th win so for me it’s big because the number 10. But it feels great because we worked so hard and came from behind.”
Riverside resident Bob Glennie was on the Program, the boat that finished third in the Beneteau 36.7 class, finishing just 18 minutes behind the Veni Vidi, Veatchi, the boat Buoscio sailed on.
Riverside resident Greg Alm was on the Maggie Mae but that boat had to abandon the race Saturday night when a crew member had a medical emergency. Riverside resident Ryszard Dlugosz was on the Koko Loco which finished 7th out of 13 boats in the Beneteau 40-foot classification
The race began off Navy Pier Saturday and the Veni Vidi, Veatchi sailed into Mackinac Harbor at 4:38 a.m. on Monday completing the nearly 300-mile trip in just under 41 hours.
Along the way Buoscio and his seven crewmates sailed through three storms, two Saturday night and one Sunday night, and dealt with a broken pole.
“It was probably the toughest Mac race I’ve ever done,” Buoscio said. “It was a wet, windy ride.”
Buoscio said one of storms Saturday night was perhaps the worst he has ever experienced in his two decades of sailing in the race. Strong winds throughout the race also made the journey even more challenging than normal.
“You’re soaking wet, you’re getting rained on, you still got to kind of race and focus on that so it’s difficult plus I think I slept about an hour the whole time,” Buoscio said. “The whole crew, there was so much going on none of us could really afford to sleep because it was so windy and stormy.”
Lighting lit up the sky Saturday night
“We were joking, it reminded me of like a 90’s disco, the strobe lights, because the lightning was so consistent, every five seconds the sky was lit up and you could see everybody on the boat,” Buoscio said. “We’d be in almost daylight for a few seconds.”
Buoscio was at the helm for about 20 percent of the race and was trimming the main sail most of the rest of the time he was on duty.
On Saturday afternoon high winds snapped the boat’s spinnaker pole, the pole that holds up the main sail, in two. It took Buoscio and his crewmates approximately 90 minutes to repair the pole. During that time the boat dropped more than 10 places falling far behind their top competitors.
“Once we got the pole fixed, we had a lot of ground to make up because we probably lost a few miles on everybody because we couldn’t sail as fast as they could without that pole,” Buoscio said.
But they gradually gained on the other boats and took the lead late Sunday night or early Monday morning. They made up time while being pushed on by a very strong wind. Since the entire crew was cold, wet and tired they decided to push as hard as they could overnight in rough seas with a 20-knot wind.
“Normally that’s a lot for a boat to handle, but we did really well with that,” Buoscio said. “I don’t think we were in the lead until like 1 a.m. or midnight. … I think we just sailed a little bit harder and pushed the boat a little more than anybody else.”
For the first 16 years that Buoscio raced in the Mac he raced in a boat that he owned that was named Karma. Buoscio won the Beneteau 36.7 classification eight times with the Karma. He and a partner owned a boat shop. After getting out of the boat business in 2016 Buoscio sold the Karma. But one of his former crew members Jason Veatch owns the Veni, Vidi, Veatchi and the two reversed roles with Buoscio becoming part of Veatch’s crew.
“Now I race with most of the crew of the boat that I used to have,” Buoscio said.
Buoscio loves the thrill of racing and the brotherhood among sailors.
“I love the comradery and you’re out there on the water with a bunch of people who are competitors against you, but as soon as you get to island it’s like this whole community where everybody’s just happy to see one another,” Buoscio said. “You all share stores.”
Buoscio, who is now a State Farm Insurance agent with an office in Willow Springs, grew up near Lake Michigan on the far southeast side of Chicago. When he was in his early 20’s he and his brother Phil rescued a broken down sailboat from a junkyard. They put it in a friend’s garage over the winter and fixed it up. Then they set about learning how to sail.
“We took library books out that were called Sailing and he and I taught ourselves how to sail,” Buoscio said.
This year’s win is especially meaningful for Buoscio because in February 2018 he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood and bone marrow cancer that does not have a cure. But now he is in remission and monthly chemotherapy session help keep the cancer at bay.
“I am in remission and I plan to stay that way,” Buoscio said.
Buoscio says that his encounter with cancer has changed the way he lives his life.
“I just look at life a little differently now,” Buoscio said. “I’m going to enjoy everything and I’m going to not skip things because it might be uncomfortable or my body is not what it used to be. I just kind of put all that out of mind and just do what I’m committed to doing.”