The Bayview Mackinac Race hosted by Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit is expecting upwards of 200 boats on the startline of the long-distance race on July 20, 2019.
The theme of this year’s 95th edition of the race, America’s longest-consecutively held freshwater sailing competition, is “keep it safe, keep it fun, and keep it real.”
By the end of April, 157 boats have registered from the U.S. and Canada, with at least six crews and possibly more coming from Ontario and Quebec.
“We are well on track to have 200 by the start date,” said Robert Nutter, chairman of the 2019 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race. There are various fleets and different starts. The largest boat registered by April was 104 feet in length and the smallest was 27 ft.
“The competitors recognize how hard we have worked over the past several years to improve the competition and safety of the race, and because of this, interest continues to climb on a local, national, and international level,” says Nutter.
The race, which starts on lower Lake Huron and finishes at Mackinac Island to the north, offers sailors a choice of two courses, a longer 259 n.m. sprint sometimes upwind for larger boats and the shorter 204 n.m. course running closer to shore.
The Bayview Mackinac Race has proven over the years that it’s not for the faint of heart, and the weather can turn, especially with a northerly wind greeting sailors on the nose
And organizers are stressing safety, after the death last year of a sailor who was washed overboard in bad weather at the start of the race and not found. An investigation found his PFD did not inflate, and his body was found a week later.
“We are urging owners and crew bosses to proactively check flares, life vests and life rafts in advance of the race, even if it means using up a $20 cartridge,” said Nutter.
There will also be various seminars offered to sailors, including a North Sails Seminar on Mackinac race strategies, weather and routing. The Detroit Regional Yacht Racing Association presented a seminar on PFD safety at three Detroit-area yacht clubs.
To qualify for the race, at least 30 per cent of those aboard, including the skipper, must meet minimum safety educational requirements.
The Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race has been enjoyed by 2,000 or more sailors and some 75,000 fans over a course of time, with the fun beginning a day or so before the race start and ending several days after the first boat finishes.
At “Boat Night” on the Friday before the Saturday morning start, entries line up their boats along both banks of the Black River in Port Huron for some last-minute frolicking at the massive Blue Water Fest.
The next morning, the fleet motors to the starting line in a parade that passes under the Bluewater Bridge and past spectators who set up lawn chairs on the shore and cheer on their favorites. Meanwhile Mackinac Island is preparing for the arrival of the fleet.
At the finish, horse-drawn carriages serve as taxis and bars and restaurants spill over with happy sailors who seem to grow exponentially by numbers until the last “pickle” boat appears at the dock. On Tuesday after the start, the colorful atmosphere is punctuated by the Island Awards Party and a concert at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel.