Bevy of boats to set sail for Mackinac

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Port Huron to Mackinac Race begins Saturday — in style.

For starters, this is the 100th anniversary of the Bayview Yacht Club, which hosts the race.

Then there’s the 250 boats registered to participate in the 91st annual event. That’s the most since 2005.

Race chairman Peter Wenzler, who will sail in the event for the 33rd time aboard Equation, isn’t surprised by the increased number of entries.

“It’s the highlight of the year,” Wenzler said. “I’ve been involved in it forever and I could go on and on about the people and the race and the beauty of the venue.

“It’s really kind of special. If you’re a sailor on the Great Lakes, this is our main event.”

The festivities began Friday with “Boat Night” in Port Huron, with approximately 50,000 people expected to enjoy the celebration.

The fun turns to business this morning, with the official start at 11:30 a.m. near the Blue Water Bridge.

The competition follows two distinctive courses:

■The 259-nautical mile Cove Island course for bigger and faster boats; and

■The 204-nautical mile Shore Course for smaller boats that hug the Michigan shoreline.

Both courses end on Mackinac.

Most crews have spent months preparing for the race, which is generally regarded as one of the most technically challenging in North America.

“Preparation is everything,” Wenzler said. “A lot of these races are won before the race even starts. Crews have to be prepared for the conditions you’ll face in this race.

“Everyone will make mistakes, but the guy that makes the fewest mistakes will win.”

Weather is always a factor, and will be again this weekend.

The start is expected to be generally slow because of light winds from the south to southwest, and some sporadic rain showers are expected at some point.

Still, none of that will put a damper on today’s festivities.

“The culmination to all the work of our staff, who do everything they can to make it a better event and experience for our customer — the sailor,” Wenzler said.

Race time

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.