West Bloomfield resident recalls success, crew as fondest Mackinac race memories aboard Epic

By: Sue Teggart | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published July 20, 2011

 The Epic, owned by West Bloomfield residents Ray and Winnie Adams, embarks on last year’s Bayview Mackinac race.

The Epic, owned by West Bloomfield residents Ray and Winnie Adams, embarks on last year’s Bayview Mackinac race.

Photo courtesy of Marcin Chumecki,official BYC photographer

Bonded by the love of the sea, Ray and Winnie Adams of West Bloomfield began sailing 35 years ago.

The veteran sailors have earned the prestigious title of “old goat,” given to sailors who have raced in more than 25 Bayview Mackinac races apiece. At the 50-race mark, “old goats” make the glorious transition to “grand rams.”

Their sailing adventures began with racing on the lake at Stoney Creek Metropark and Kent Lake. When the opportunity arose to crew for a boat on Lake St. Clair, they took it. Shortly thereafter, they participated in their first Mackinac race and never looked back.

“We both starting racing on a one-design boat together,” said owner Ray Adams. “We learned the tricks of the trade and all of the things to make our boat go fast after getting beat up on the local fleet for a year or two. And so we kept asking questions … and finally we started doing well. We won a few races and that got us hooked.

“We just kept it going ever since.”

In their years of sailboat racing, the Adamses have recorded wins in the 1998 Port Huron to Mackinac and Chicago to Mackinac races in their class. They also won back-to-back Port Huron to Mackinac races in 2001-02 in their class. Altogether, they have 10 Mackinac flags.

“That doesn’t happen very often,” Ray Adams said about the back-to-back wins in 1998. “That’s pretty tough to do. We were really thrilled about that.

“When you go north and you get one Mackinac flag, that’s a big deal, but getting two in the same year is unusual, so we’re real happy about that,” Ray Adams added about placing last year in the Chicago and Port Huron races.

In short, the Adams’ run in the Mackinac races has been “epic,” which just so happens to be the name of their sailboat — a 41-foot Beneteau 42s7 that’s in its 15th season. Adams said the boat was actually named after Epic Records.

“My brother told us to pick a short name because it’s better to make a logo out of it,” Ray Adams said. “I kept looking for short names. One day I was going through a record collection and saw Epic Records and thought that might be a good idea. It’s a classic name, and it’s short and nobody else has it. My brother designed the logo and off we went.”
Some of the couple’s memories have been forged on Epic. In 1985, he recalled riding out some of the roughest waters in race history.

More than winning and the memories of past races, Adams said the best part of sailing has been the camaraderie of the crew.

“We take 12 to Mackinac, and they come from all walks of life,” Ray Adams said. “A couple of the guys became ‘old goats’ racing with us, so that was neat that you have longevity in the crew.

“The more we get involved in sailing, you look back and realize it’s all about the people that you sailed with and the friendships that you make,” he continued. “A lot of those people you see more than you see your family. It becomes a long-term relationship.”

This year, Epic will sail the Thunder Bay Shore Course for the first time. The Shore Course is shorter and runs 252 statute miles along the Michigan shoreline. In the past, the Adamses sailed the longer Cove Island Course.

“It’s the first time in 35 years that we’ve done the Shore Course,” Ray Adams said. “This year, we switched rating rules and they allowed us to race in the Shore Course, so we’re going to do it.

“It’s a different game plan this year,” Ray Adams said about his expectations. “How far inshore do you go? How far offshore do you go? That’s the big question. You see more boats because you have the limiting factor of the shoreline. It should be interesting and a different kind of a race.”