Bayview Mackinac Race - The Sailor's Own Stories....

1981 Mackinac Race
by Marc Hollerbach

It starts off with the normal "No shit guys, this really happened..."

In 1981 we sailed the race with Fred Somes on his NA40, Hotspur. I was the tactician and the crew included some well known sailors, who weren't as well known then. Eric Hollerbach, Stu Argo, Peter Griffin, Jon Somes, Greg Fordon, Ed Hendrie and Don Mackenzie were a few of the guys along for the ride. I think there were about 15-20 NA's in the race that year but that number, like a good fish story, may have grown a bit with the telling.

Early Sunday morning found us beating in a building breeze toward Cove Island. We knew we were about 3-5 miles behind 4 other NA's but we didn't know if there might be more out there. It was kind of a grey day with a left over, oily sea. The air felt unstable and slippery, like something wasn't quite right with the world.

The breeze was puffing to about 15 knots and we needed weight on the rail to keep the power on the boat. We had won the Chicago Race the week before by sailing harder than the other guys so Eric, who was supposed to be off-watch, went below and rousted his watch out of their warm bunks and made them get on the rail. There was plenty of grumbling as they woke up, but Eric was relentless. With the extra weight on the rail, we could drive the boat harder and it became obvious to everyone that this was the right thing to do.

By late afternoon we were into the upper end of the #2. Except to change clothes, everyone had spent the day on the rail. We rounded Cove Island fifth but, by now, we could see 2 of the leaders and the crew was really fired up. We fixed an early dinner and ate it on the rail. By dusk we were into the #3, and the waves were building nicely. Before the lights went out we had passed one of the boats and were within striking distance of the next.

All night the wind blew hard except when it blew really hard. The waves were big except when they were really big. It was PFD's and harnesses all around as the waves kept the boat jumping underfoot. Shifting between a #4, #5 and reefed main, tacking on every header, the entire crew stayed on the rail. Between adjustments they kept their spirits up with jokes, stories and the normal rail meat pastimes.

By morning we had one case of hypothermia and a few new sick seasick stories. The drivers were so burned out they were spelling each other every 10 minutes. Someone made some coffee and passed it up on deck to help revive the guys and we tried to send the hypothermia case below. When he refused to go we tied him to the lifelines so he wouldn't fall off. As the day wore on, the wind and waves diminished and Mr. Hypothermia was beginning to come around. By now, we could see the island and smell the famous aroma and, still, no one wanted to leave the deck.

We finished in the early evening with a very light breeze, the sun shining and balmy temperatures. It was 36 hours since anyone had been below except to change clothes or throw some food together. We had passed all of our competitors during the night and were first to finish, first in class. In all my years of sailing, I have never sailed with a tougher group of sailors. Warren Jones will tell you that we ruined the sport that night but I say we just rode the horse in the direction it was going. To be perfectly honest however, I hope I never have to do it again!

Marc Hollerbach
Old Goat


If you have any stories or anecdotes about your racing the Mackinac Race or even some old racing pictures that you would like to share with us, please send them to mac-history@intercreate.com.

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