There's a Reason (or Two or Three) Why Sailors Love this Race
DETROIT, MICH. (July 14, 2016) - When it comes to send-offs for distance races, nobody does it better than Bayview Yacht Club with their Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race, which starts Saturday, July 16 (first class at 11:30) for 219 teams. Friday is “Boat Night,” when entries line up their boats along both banks of the Black River for some last-minute frolicking with friends and fans during the coinciding Blue Water Fest in Port Huron. The next morning, the fleet will motor to the starting line in a parade that passes under the Bluewater Bridge and past more fans who set up lawn chairs on the shore and cheer on their favorites. Then, after logging either 259 or 204 nautical miles on their choice of two courses (Cove Island Course and Shore Course, respectively), all “Bayview Mac” sailors will be welcomed on Michigan’s magical horse-and-carriage island of Mackinac with more celebrations, including a giant awards party at the Grand Hotel’s Woodfill Park on the Tuesday after the start.
“It’s like no other race in this country,” said Greg Thomas (Gross Pointe Park, Mich.), who is set to sail the Cove Island Course aboard the Contessa 43 Pendragon, which he owns with close friend and crew mate John Trost (Gross Pointe Woods, Mich.). “The fun factor is huge, but more important, it’s a 92-year-old tradition where whole families live 12 months for the next race.”
Thomas and Trost sailed as youngsters and then young men aboard two different Pendragons owned by Thomas’s father. In all, the duo has sailed 42 Bayview Macs in a row together since 1974. The first 23 of them were as crew for the elder Thomas, who gave the current Pendragon to his son and “second son” Trost prior to sailing in and winning his last Bayview Mac in 1996.
“Now John and I have seven sons between us,” said Thomas, “and the crew consists mostly of them and their friends. It’s a pretty competitive bunch but decidedly un-angry. There’s no yelling, no screaming. It’s just a big family thing.”
|Sons of sons of sailors: the crew of Pendragon includes Karl, Charlie and John Trost (third, fourth and fifth from left) and Kevin, Greg and Ryan Thomas (seventh, eleventh and twelfth from left) |
And while the race is a platform for family fun, it’s also a true test of fortitude, says Thomas.
“First of all Lake Huron is a big lake. You’re alone, it’s cold and there are no cities along the way (as opposed to Chicago Mac where you are passing towns with hundreds of thousands of people). Then on the Cove Island Course you are near the Canadian shore, so you are way alone – there weren’t even cell phone towers until five years ago. You experience this significant challenge of survival instincts and your sailing abilities, so when you finish the race you feel like you’ve really done something: you’ve met a challenge and prevailed.”
And because the race happens at the height of July and finishes at a fairy tale destination, there’s a migration of families and friends to Mackinac Island instead of sailors getting on a plane to get out of there as fast as they can.
“It’s truly out of a postcard, with the clop, clop, clop of horses everywhere, no cars, the fudge, the cannons going off…it’s a place turned back in time,” said Thomas. “It’s no wonder Bayview Mac racers who get there Sunday night and Monday morning want to stay through to the awards party on Tuesday and then head back on Wednesday. It’s a great challenge followed by a great festival.”
Scenes from the 2015 Bell's Beer Bayview Mackinac Race (from top left: Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, camaraderie after racing, overall winner Il Mostro near the finish, the fleet at Mackinac Island. (Photo Credit: Martin Chumiecki/Bayview Yacht Club)
For Division 1, 106 of the fleet’s larger boats will sail in eight ORR classes (for Racing, Cruising and One-Design) on the Cove Island Course, while for Division II, 105 boats will sail in seven PHRF classes (for Racing, Cruising, One-Design and Double-handed) on the Shore Course. Division III is specifically for eight multihulls that will sail the Cove Island course.
Fourteen of the largest boats will sail in Class A (Cove Island) and will include defending Class A, Division 1 and Overall champion Il Mostro, a Volvo 70 owned by Peter Thorton and his son Christopher Thorton (Bay Harbor, Mich.) as well as five Santa Cruz 70s (Details, Dynamis, Equation, Evolution and Stripes) that are always close in the battle.
The largest class is Class E (Cove Island) and Class J Cruising (Shore Course) with 23 entrants each, while sailing in one-design classes are 13 Beneteau First 36.7s, 11 J/120s (both on Cove Isalnd) and 12 C&C 35s (Shore Course).
While Il Mostro is the largest boat entered, Gale Runner, the C&C 29 skippered by Larry Fair (Fort Gratiot, Mich.) in the Doublehanded class, is the smallest boat.
Trophies for the 2016 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race include the J.L. Hudson Trophy for the boat with the best corrected time in Division I and the Canadian Club Classic Trophy for the boat with the best corrected time in Division II. Special competitions include the Corinthian Challenge (for all-Corinthian teams) and the Pro-Team Sports Challenge (held in conjunction with community partner Set Sail for Autism and the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association, with four yachts representing different professional Detroit sports teams) as well as the North Sails Yacht Club Challenge, comprised of 12 three-boat teams: four from Bayview Yacht Club and one each from Bay City Yacht Club, Great Lakes Yacht Club, Port Huron Yacht Club, Lake Shore Sail Club, Detroit Yacht Club, Port Huron Yacht Club, Crescent Sail Yacht Club, and Tawas Bay Yacht Club.
Joining Bell’s Beer in sponsoring the 2015 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race is the Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island, Mich., Doubletree by Hilton, Freighters, Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, Aitken and Ormand Insurance, Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Pentastar Aviation, and the Bayview Yacht Club Foundation, Zurn, and Meijer