Bell's Beer Bayview Mackinac Race continues to be a staple of the Michigan summer

By: Thomas Franz | C&G Newspapers | Published June 27, 2014

GROSSE POINTE — Tim Prophit and Art LaVasseur share more than 60 combined races from Port Huron to Mackinac Island, but this summer’s race will be special in a different way for the veteran sailors.

Prophit, the 2014 commodore of Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit, will join LaVasseur, the race chairman, in leading this summer’s Bell's Beer Bayview Mackinac race that begins on July 12 in Port Huron.

Hundreds of local sailors, along with some coming as far away as Lima, Peru, will be participating in the two-day race that will be running for the 90th consecutive year.

The race is considered one of America’s premiere sailing events, so much so that President Roosevelt ensured that it would continue to be run during World War II.

More than 230 boats, including 25 that are newcomers to the race, have registered.

“My goal was to have more boats in the race than we had last year because we are on a growth mode, and I wanted to continue that,” LaVasseur said. “And of course, we want to make sure that everybody has a good time and everyone is safe because it can get dicey out there with the weather.”

Prophit, who will be defending back-to-back class titles, is no stranger to the weather impacting the race in a significant way. His ship’s winning times the last two years were nine hours apart.

“Weather is a huge factor. In 2013, we pretty much had a good breeze the entire time sailing upwind,” Prophit said. “There are two elements to the wind: how hard is it blowing and which direction is it coming from. If it’s blowing light in any direction, it’s going to be a slower race.”

Prophit’s boat, Fast Tango, will be running in the Division II Shore Course race against 18 other boats in its class.

The Bayview Mackinac features two routes for the race, and each route is divided further into several classes to ensure similar boats race against each other.

The shore course (204 nautical miles) takes sailors up the western coastline of Lake Huron, and the Cove Island Course (259 nautical miles) will take racers across Lake Huron into Canada before cutting back across toward Mackinac.

“One of the things we try really hard to do is to have logical groupings of boats based on the whole form, design and configuration of the boat, so we try to put similar boats racing against each other,” Prophit said. “It’s never perfect, but from year-to-year, we try to do the best we can. We work very hard as a group and as a team to get good racing classes for all participants.”

Last year’s winning boats by division were Sledge Hammer in the Division I Cove Island Course, Equation in the Division II Shore Course, Mostly Harmless in Division III Shore Course Cruising, Patriot in Division IV Shore Course Double Handed, and Cheeky in Division V Cove Island Course multihull.

Another aspect of the racing competition is the involvement of the four Detroit professional sports teams. Although athletes from the teams won’t be sailing in the race, each franchise has randomly selected a boat that will represent them.

After selecting the boat Christina with a Sea II, former Detroit Tigers pitcher and lifelong Michigan resident Dave Rozema said that the race is a great opportunity for the Tigers to be involved in a statewide tradition.

“Being in Michigan, I think you have to be involved with boats — I really do,” Rozema said. “It’s just part of having great natural resources. We’re really gifted that we can go anywhere, and with a sailboat use less energy, to go up to the top, go to Superior, go down to Chicago, to New York. It’s pretty cool.”

The Bayview Mackinac race starts at 11:30 a.m. July 12 from Port Huron. Awards will be presented to the winning teams on July 15 at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

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