Local boaters set to sail in the Bayview Mackinac race

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published July 6, 2017

METRO DETROIT — With a history and a tradition that spans generations, the 93rd sailboat race from Port Huron to Mackinac Island is once again expected to attract the attention of thousands of Michiganders.

The Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race is July 22, with the first boats crossing the starting line at 11:30 a.m. on Lake Huron, just north of the Blue Water Bridge.

According to a press release, it is the longest consecutively run freshwater race in the world. Depending on weather conditions, the economic impact of the race is expected to be between $30 million and $59 million for the communities involved.

Tricia Smotherman, who is this year’s race chair, said she would like to have about 215 boats on the start line, which is about the same number as last year.

Although she won’t be racing this year, Smotherman, along with her husband, Lance, has previously participated in the race.

“I think it was in the mid-90s, we took the boat on the Mackinac race and we were on the Cove Island (course), so there was no light pollution,” the Harrison Township resident said. “You could see the northern lights come up. And it was just a spectacular show that year. … It was so extraordinary. That’s the one I carry from my sailing days.”

There are two courses sailors can take to reach Mackinac Island.

The Shore Course covers 204 nautical miles (235 statute miles), with the Cove Island Course covering 259 nautical miles (298 statute miles).

While it can vary, Cove Island is typically a faster course for larger vessels.

Each course is divided into different classifications as a way of having similar boats compete against each other.

Grosse Pointe Park resident Hans Brieden is the 2017 Bayview Yacht Club Commodore. He is on the crew of the Evolution, which is a Great Lakes 70-footer.

He considers the race to be a break from the day-to-day interruptions that life can bring, and like Smotherman, being a part of it has afforded him opportunities to see some extraordinary things.

“You’re rewarded once you get out in the lake with epic star shows, which, living in communities that have light pollution, you don’t get to see many stars here in Detroit,” said Brieden, who has been part of the race for over 30 years. “You get out in the middle of Lake Huron, and the number of stars almost looks like it’s not real. And sailing at night and getting to experience a little bit of nature in a down setting, little slower paced, is a pretty special experience.”

Smotherman expects most boats to finish by July 24. The awards ceremony will be July 25 at Woodfill Park on Mackinac Island.

Trophies are once again at stake for the winning participants.

The J.L. Trophy goes to the overall winner of the Cove Island Course, with the Canadian Club Classic Trophy awarded to the overall winner of the Shore Course.

The boat with the best corrected time in seconds per mile on either course with an all-amateur crew gets the Corinthian Trophy.

While the race can produce plenty of adventure and fun, not every sailor is out there just for kicks.

“We have some people who like to win at no cost, every cost and all cost, and you have other people who are just there to have fun,” Smotherman said. “It can get quite competitive. … I was just looking over the history, and there’s been times over the years when first and second place are determined by one second.”

Perhaps even more important than victory are the generations of families that the race has impacted.

Last year, Brieden and his brothers, Bryan and Geoff, raced separately, with each taking first place in their respective classes.

“It’s really cool for me, especially because it’s close to my family,” said Brieden, who expects Evolution’s crew to be made up of around 16 or 17 people. “My father raced it for years before he passed away. My mother still participates in administration. My sister now helps, her and her daughter, so we’re three generations deep there. My son raced with me last year when we were able to pull off the victory, so it’s got tradition. It’s woven with so many great names and families through years and years who have grown up appreciating and being part of the sport of sailing.”

Two organizations being supported by the race this year are Set Sail for Autism, which benefits Judson Center Autism Connections, and the Alliance for the Great Lakes, a citizens’ environmental organization that focuses on the protection of the Great Lakes.

The race can be tracked by visiting bycmack.com.