By Bob Wells
USA’s Craig Mackey at the 2011 Worlds in West Kirby, where he finished 14th. Everything about this image is classic Craig Mackey, except that he is sailing a Lintel here. The white color of the hull with the red “Tabasco” lettering is spot on though. Photo J. Warren Brower.
US skipper Craig Mackey is no stranger to IOM World Championships, having attended the last six. He has by far the best overall World Championship results of any US skipper, where he is a very respectable 16th overall out of 400 in Harry Drenth’s ranking system on our Worlds website. Other than sailing I know little of Craig, but my wife had a nice conversation with him during a break in a past San Diego Nationals where she learned all kinds of personal things. I see Craig as a somewhat grumpy very focused competitor, and she sees him as a pleasant social guy who used to live in our Seattle area before he moved to SoCal. Maybe that says something about my social skills. I did learn that when Craig raced out of Port Angeles (near Seattle) in an Olson 30 named Tabasco – with the same red lettering style as on his radio sailing boats. Let’s get to the interview:
Bob Wells: Craig, in the image above you are sailing a Lintel. I don’t know if I have ever seen you sail a Lintel except at West Kirby. What were you thinking? What happened to that boat?
Craig Mackey: The thinking was my Patriot was not well suited for this windier venue. That was Roy Langbord’s LINTEL that I only sailed a few times before the WC. I used my rigs and after a couple of days had her dialed in to where I was finishing in the top 10 consistently in West Kirby. Then the last few days it lightened up unfortunately for my performance. After the race I gave it to Brad Gibson, who sold it for Roy. I don’t know who ended up with it. Soon after West Kirby I received my Britpop – hull #9 from Robot Yachts.
Bob Wells: Do you ever wear pants when sailing? I’ve sailed with you on some pretty cold days, and there you are still in shorts. Maybe you’ll add a long sleeve shirt and sock hat as a concession to cold, but still the shorts.
Craig Mackey: Actually there was one time when I wore some nylon pants with a second fleece layer. We were in the Dallas Blowout where it was snowing, 25°F, and blowing 20+ knots – some serious wind chill. We went inside the clubhouse to warm up after each race. That was brutal, and I was teased about putting pants on…
Bob Wells: We have sailed together many times, but I only know you as a radio sailor consistently at the top in any US class you sail in. Beyond sailing, what else are you up to?
Craig Mackey: Well I’m retired and enjoy lots of time with Sandy, my significant other, and our dog, Cooper. Until a hip problem I liked to go to the gym and play hoops with the guys. I work on boats, putter on things, and enjoy taking it easy.
Bob Wells: I imagine that you would be a load under a basket going for a rebound. What is your local sailing club and how often do you get to sail locally these days. And what other classes are you sailing?
Craig Mackey: Mostly I sail IOMs now, and I sail the ODOM next most. My other class is the US1M, which I sail when Nationals are on the west coast.
Bob Wells: What have you got against full-keel radio sailing boats, you never seem to race that hull type?
Craig Mackey: I’m vocal about my rule #1: If I can’t pluck it and launch by grabbing the mast then I won’t sail it. That rules out the EC-12 and the like.
Bob Wells: I’ve heard you say that before, hence the question. You have sailed your BRITPOP from Robot Yachts for some time now. Do you have any modifications that you prefer?
Craig Mackey: Yes, my BRITPOP has held up very well, thank you James and Tony Edwards. They build an excellent durable boat. The boat is stock and I sail to Brad’s numbers, except I still prefer the groovey mast. I work with Alec at Blackmagick Sails to get the main luff curve how I like it. Actually for Worlds I’m building a one-piece mast, and will relegate my 2-piece mast to only for breaking down when needed for traveling.
Bob Wells: What are you doing to get ready for IOM Worlds, which is less than three months away?
Craig Mackey: Unfortunately I haven’t been sailing as much as I want, as I get a new hip in a week – I’, counting the days. I went to the recent Midwinters in San Diego, but my hip wouldn’t allow me to walk a single-heat regatta for three days so I served on the protest committee. I expect a quick recovery and after that my next race should be the Blowout in Dallas. If that goes well for me maybe your Cow Cup, as I know that May is a good time for wind in Seattle. Hopefully a race will be arranged in Foster City before Worlds too.
Bob Wells: Tell us about our USA Worlds team, which is a large one.
Craig Mackey: We are all experienced with a good selection of current boats and good equipment. We’ve all competed at Foster City. Most of us live in California and compete against each other regularly, which helps:
||is the highest ranked American. He always has his Britpop dialed in and fast. This is John’s 1st Worlds, but with his experience he’ll perform fine.
John was 2nd at Nationals at Foster City last year.
||this will be his 3rd International regatta, so he won’t have the deer-in-headlights look. His Cheinz is dialed in and he is sailing consistently and fast.
||has the new V9 after being competitive with his V8. This is his first international event, but Jess is pretty solid and should do fine.
Jess makes his own sails.
||is my travel buddy. He has been to the Barbados WC, so that will help. He’s always got his Britpop going well and is a solid skipper.
||just finished first at last weeks light-air Midwinters. Also sailing a new V9 after success with the V8. George is always fast with good gear.
||is a great big-boat skipper relatively new to IOMs. He adapted to IOMs very quickly and is doing well at all our big regattas so who knows?
||his third WC, but Stephan has not been able to sail enough this past year to stay as sharp as he has been.
||experienced solid skipper entering his 1st WC. Ted will be at the Blowout, but he needs to sail more. I wish Ted lived in California to sail with us more.
||very experienced skipper who also just needs to sail more regularly. Bruce is our other non-Californian on the WC team.
This is Bruce’s second WC after Barbados.
Bob Wells: I looked it up and beginning with the 2003 Vancouver WC you have been to six Worlds in a row, ant Foster City will make it the 7th. Care to reminisce about these events? Any of these really stand out?
Craig Mackey: They have all been great. Actually I’ve been to 6 WC’s and 4 EC’s, and I find that WC’s tend to have better venues. West Kirby stands out for long courses with consistent wind parallel to the shore, and fortunately I had a good boat for the prevailing conditions.
Bob Wells: In the last four Worlds you have finished 14th, 14th, 14th, and 12th. That is amazing to average out so consistently. Is there any explanation?
Craig Mackey: I have no idea.
Bob Wells: Do you think you’ll have an advantage sailing in home waters at this WC?
Craig Mackey: Not with the caliber of skipper attending Worlds. They’ve seen it all, and pick up on things very quickly.
Bob Wells: Do you have any tips for newcomers racing on Central Lake for the first time?
Craig Mackey: Don’t trip on the wooden curb separating the control area from the sidewalk…
Craig Mackey’s BRITPOP “Tabasco”, which like all his boats is painted white with red lettering on his sails. Here Craig is sailing at the 2014 EC on Lake Garda in Italy.
Hanneke Gillissen © photo.
Everybody else in coats and pants yet there is Craig still in his shorts on this cool morning in Idaho.
Jean Lee photo.
Craig often employs his skill to carry a larger rig when most of us need to change down. But it doesn’t always work for him as you can see here in the silty waters
of the 2014 Blowout in Dallas. Craig is #29 nose down on the left.
J. Warren Brower photo.