It's a family affair at Port Huron to Mackinac race

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — There was one time Rob Bunn didn't sail with his father in the Port Huron to Mackinac race.

It was 2001 when Rob sailed with some friends and co-workers as his boat was being reconditioned.

"It was weird, different," Rob Bunn said. "It just didn't feel right."

Bunn and his father, Bob, reunited in 2002 — and have not missed a race since. Aboard the family boat Wind Toy, the Bunns set sail Saturday in what will be Bob's 50th Port Huron to Mackinac race — making him a "Grand Ram" in race terminology. Rob will be sailing in the event for the 25th time, making him an "Old Goat."

"It doesn't get any better," said Bob Bunn, 66, who was born into a sailing family and has brought his own family into the sport. "It really is wonderful to be able to share this with Rob. It's a big race for him, too."

In addition to father and son sailing, Rob's wife, Laurie, and her father, Bill Henderson (who is an "Old Goat") will be aboard the Wind Toy.

"This is what makes sailing so much fun," Bob Bunn said.

Said Rob Bunn, 37: "We'll have our moments when emotions run high, voices might get loud, but it all stays on the boat. It's just a great time, a great experience."

But the Bunns aren't the only family making waves this weekend.

Families always have had an impact on the Port Huron to Mackinac race, and the Hollerbachs, like the Bunns, also offer a perfect example of sailing families who are at the soul of the event.

This is the first time Marc Hollerbach and his sons — Adam, Nathan and Ian — will be on the same boat, the Windancer.

"It is a thrill," Marc said.

Nathan Hollerbach gets most of the credit for getting the four together on the same boat for a Mackinac race that will be the 25th for Adam.

"We started thinking and talking about this two years ago," Nathan said. "It all kind of fell into place and we couldn't be happier. It's been a long time since I got an opportunity to sail with Adam."

Said Adam: "This is something we'll always remember."

The Hollerbachs have been sailing for as long as any of them can remember, with the Mackinac race being the highlight of any summer.

"I've seen so many amazing things on the water and distance racing, and especially in this race," Nathan said. "In this race you get to see the Northern Lights and the stars like nowhere else.

"Experiencing that stuff with some of the people that matter most to you, there's nothing better."

Port Huron to Mackinac race

Castoff: 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Southern Lake Huron, just north of the Blue Water Bridge

Participants: More than 260 boats and 2,500 sailors

Courses: Shore — 204 nautical miles (235 statute miles) along the Michigan shoreline. Cove Island — 259 nautical miles (298 statute miles) around a buoy off the tip of the Bruce Peninsula in Canada.