Detroit pro teams compete for sailing title

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — It’s still fun.

But it’s become more competitive.

The Pro-Team Challenge used to be a nice, little side item in the Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race, but entering its seventh year today, it has become an official class.

Four boats were picked in a blind draw to represent each of the four Detroit pro teams — Alliance (Lions), It’s A Zoo (Tigers), Flash (Red Wings) and Nauti Boys (Pistons).

“It started out as kind of a side project and it’s been wildly successful,” race chairman Kyle Burleson said. “The teams love it and our competitors love being part of it.

“Last year the (sailing) team (Legend, which won the Challenge) representing the Lions actually went as far as to put a big Lions decal on the side of their boat and they kept it on the whole year.

“It’s become a very big deal.”

Members from Set Sail for Autism also will participate in the festivities as honorary team members.

Boats representing the Lions and Red Wings have won twice each, while the Pistons and Tigers have one win each.

Rules change

One change to the race will be for those competing on the longer Cove Island course.

The addition of the Offshore Racing Rule should make for a tighter and increasingly technology-based race.

The boats in the shorter Shore Course will continue to race under the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet.

Party time

Thousands of family members, friends, and boat lovers attended the Boat Night party Friday in downtown Port Huron, the annual pre-night kickoff.

Burleson believes the timeless aspect of sailing makes it so popular.

“It’s something you can do your whole life,” Burleson said. “I grew up sailing with my father and brothers. I’ve been on boats where are three generations. It’s something you can do with your family and you can’t be aged out.

“And it’s a great way to create special memories. A Michigan tradition.”

Anchors away

Today’s start in downtown Port Huron marks the 92nd consecutive year of the race to Mackinac, with more than 220 boats expected.

“It’s encouraging to see 15 new boats,” Burleson said. “There’s new boat owners that are getting into it, people that have never raced that want to give it a try.”

... Tommy Meier, who’ll be aboard Grizzly, is racing in his 46th Mackinac race.

And every year, he’s made sure he’s surrounded by people close to him.

“I like sailing with friends and I can honestly say that in all 45 years, I’ve always sailed with friends,” he said. “I like that. I like the camaraderie. It’s a team, like any other team sport.” @tkulfan

Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race

Starts: 11:30 a.m. Saturday

Start/finish: Southern Lake Huron just north of Blue Water Bridge/Mackinac Island near Grand Hotel

Courses:Cove Island — 259 nautical miles. Shore — 204 nautical miles along the Michigan shoreline