Detroit – For now, the 96th edition of the Bayview Port Huron-to-Mackinac Race is a go.
Now, whether it takes place July 11 remains to be seen, given the coronavirus pandemic. Things are changing daily and, simply put, a final decision on the race's viability could be made by state government.
But race chairman Chris Clark is hopeful the race – which was run during World War II and never missed a beat – will go on.
“The big message here is, we have time,” Clark said. “We have a group that knows how to do their job, not only with competitors but suppliers and vendors and the Island knows how to host us.
“We’re going to do it, if it’s not illegal, or for some other reason, not allowed.”
The length of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order will be a key determining factor. If the order disappears by July, Clark is optimistic the race can take place.
“If it’s not unsafe or illegal, we want to do the race,” Clark said. “Time is certainly on our side. We’ve run the place for heading on (96) years, and to use the modern vocabulary, we were considered an essential operation in World War II.
“We want to continue that continuous running streak going.”
An average race has approximately 200-250 boats competing, with more than 2,000 crew members on those boats, making the trek to Mackinac.
The anticipation of getting back on the water and forgetting the current anxiety has been strong.
As of Monday afternoon, 105 boats had registered for July’s race, which has Atwater Brewery as its main sponsor this year
“I expected registrations to completely dry up,” Clark said. “Just to give it a number, since March 15 (when the sports world shut down), we’ve had 15 boats register.
"People aren’t just registering, they’re paying their fees. What this shows is, everybody is really interested in doing the race and everybody is interested in having this behind us and getting back outside. Competitors are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
“This is what we do.”
Clark, the Mackinac Race Authority and race sponsors have discussed contingency plans, but moving the event to later in the summer isn't on the table.
“I really don’t think that’s an option because Mackinac Island is pretty booked up,” Clark said. “We would have to come up with an opening (for a weekend) on the island and that would be difficult to do.
"We have a great army of volunteers, great group of sponsors, suppliers, and all of them so far have been amazingly supportive and they want to go forward. We're hoping we can be one of the first major yacht races after all this is over."
Port Huron has already cancelled the Blue Water Festival, which runs along with race weekend, but that shouldn’t affect the race.
“We’re hoping that won’t impact our ability to tie up (downtown Port Huron) the night before (because) we were doing that long before the Blue Water Festival existed,” Clark said. “We’re hoping we can race. We may have to make some concessions, or changes. But right now, it being three months from the race, there’s nothing pressing us from cancelling the race.
“Again, time is certainly on our side.”