May 9, 2019
The Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race, America’s longest-consecutively held freshwater sailing competition, is readying for its 95th edition on July 20, and organizers are working to “keep it safe, keep it fun, and keep it real.”
“With a June 4 deadline for entry, we have crossed the threshold of 157 registered boats, putting us well on track to have 200 by the start date,” said 2019 Bayview Mackinac Race Chair Robert Nutter, noting that the largest boat is 104 feet in length and the smallest is 27. “Interest continues to climb on a local, national, and international level.” The race, which starts on lower Lake Huron and finishes at Mackinac Island to the north, offers sailors a choice of two courses: one the length of 259 nautical miles (the Cove Island Course) for larger boats and the other of 204 nm (the Shore Course.) As all who’ve sailed in it know, the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race is not for the faint of heart. Much of it can be spent beating upwind, and when Mother Nature is feeling feisty, she can serve up hefty breezes and short hammering waves that can wear down even the saltiest of souls.
The biggest problem, according to Nutter, is when a sailor assumes his safety gear will work and it doesn’t. The race urges 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 cartridge he says.
Fun Factor Second
The Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race has had 95 years to polish its reputation as one of the most festive sailing events on the continent; it is enjoyed by 2,000 or more sailors and some 75,000 fans over a course of time that begins a day or so before the race start and ends several days after the first boat finishes.
At Boat Night on the Friday night preceding the event’s 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 opposite Sarnia, ON and past spectators who set up lawn chairs on the shore and cheer on their favorites.
Meanwhile Mackinac Island prepares for the arrival of the fleet and is blossoming with activity by the time the first finishers arrive a few days later. 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.
“Michigan has so many great traditions and sitting on Grand Hotel’s Front Poach while watching the sailboats cross the finish line of the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race is one of them,” said Grand Hotel President Dan Musser III.
Bayview Yacht Club and the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race have for many years worked with the non-profit organization Set Sail for Autism to create special sailing events and opportunities for autistic children and young adults. As well, their partnership with the non-profit Alliance for the Great Lakes supports that organization’s efforts to protect the lakes now and in the future.