Mackinac Race scheduled for 91st consecutive running

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published July 10, 2015

 Grosse Pointe Farms resident Rob Bunn is pictured raising one of the sails of Wind Toy IV. Bunn and his crew have been preparing for the 2015 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race, which is scheduled to begin July 18.

Grosse Pointe Farms resident Rob Bunn is pictured raising one of the sails of Wind Toy IV. Bunn and his crew have been preparing for the 2015 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race, which is scheduled to begin July 18.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

This year’s installment of the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race is slated to begin at 11:30 a.m. July 18.

It is the 91st consecutive running of this summer tradition, which includes Boat Night on July 17, as thousands gather to get a glimpse of the racing yachts and wish the racers well, and wraps up between July 19 and 21 on Mackinac Island as the final boats cross the finish line.

More than 250 boats have registered to compete, which could make it the largest race since 2005, according to race chairman Peter Wenzler.

A change for this year’s race requires faster boats with specified ratings to compete on the Cove Island Course, and the slower-rated boats have the option to take the Cove Island Course or the Shore Course.

The three divisions offered this year are Cove Island, the Shore Course and Multi-Hull.

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

Another change is the required boat length, which has been reduced from 27 to 24 feet.

In addition to the joy that comes from merely participating in the race, there are rewards for the winners. Flags typically go to the top three boats in each class, the J.L. Hudson Trophy goes to the overall winner of the Cove Island Course, and the Canadian Club Classic Trophy is awarded to the overall winner of the Shore Course.

The Corinthian Cup, which is new this year, will go to the boat with a crew made up entirely of ISAF-classified amateur sailors having the best overall corrected time in seconds per mile. Competitors taking the Cove Island Course, as well as the Shore Course, will have an opportunity to win the trophy.

Sailors who have completed 25 or more races are referred to as “Old Goats.” This year’s race will be No. 25 for Grosse Pointe Farms resident Rob Bunn, and to make the experience even more special, his dad, Bob, is also expected to be part of the crew.

Rob Bunn, who said he and his crew will compete in the Shore Course Division, said there has only been one race in which he has not sailed with his father.

“It’s always been special sailing these races with my dad,” said Bunn, who is the skipper of Wind Toy IV, which has won five races in the last 10 years and has been sailed by three generations of the family. “This will be his 50th, so he becomes a ‘Grand Ram’ this year, the same year I become an ‘Old Goat.’ So that’s a pretty cool deal.”

This will also be Adam Hollerbach’s 25th year of racing, which, upon completion of the race, would make him a third-generation “Old Goat.” This will be the first distance race that Hollerbach, along with his dad, Marc, and brothers Nathan and Ian, will be racing together.

“It’s really special,” said Adam Hollerbach, a Grosse Pointe Farms resident and crew member of Windancer, which will race the Division 1 Cove Island Course. “The idea was that maybe we should try to get on a boat, all together, just so that we can make it a family trip. We’ve all been doing this for a long time. My dad sold his boat probably 12 or 15 years ago, so we were trying to find a boat that we could sail on, where we could all sail together. And Brien Baker, who’s a close friend of the family, was chartering Windancer and said, ‘Why don’t you come with us.’

“I’m pretty excited. What I love about doing this race is the camaraderie. It’ll be fun to share that with my dad and my brothers. It’s a little adventure, and that’s fun. We also get to sail with the Baker family. It’s also very cool to be able to do that on a big, fast boat like Windancer.”

This will be the 24th race for Grosse Pointe Woods resident Hanson Bratton, who is the 2015 Bayview Yacht Club Commodore. He will be racing in the Doublehanded Class, which he has done for the past few years, on the Division 2 Shore Course.

He cited racing in the Doublehanded Class, along with night sailing, as his favorite part of the race.

“The type of racing I’ve been doing is called doublehanded, which is only me and one other person aboard the boat, which is quite challenging compared to the fully crewed boats that also race,” said Bratton, whose boat is a Tartan Ten. “That, these days, is a very important part of the racing for me. It makes it quite exciting. As far as the racing itself goes, I enjoy night sailing very much so. Get out there when the conditions are just right, the boat’s moving along in the flat water, you got starlit skies, and occasionally might see the Northern Lights. It makes it very special.”

Aside from the economic impact of the race, which is approximated to be between $30 and $59 million for the communities involved, there are also benefits that extend beyond the race itself.

The Set Sail for Autism program will provide the opportunity for young adults with autism spectrum disorder to sail back from Mackinac Island to Port Huron. Proceeds generated from the Set Sail for Autism program benefit the Oakland University Center for Autism.

On June 25, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit and the Bayview Yacht Club hosted “Sail into the Sunset,” which provided an opportunity for mentors and mentees to “enjoy an evening at Bayview Yacht Club, learning to sail and enjoying a wonderful dinner on the Detroit Riverfront,” according to a press release.