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'We're going to sail': Virus can't run aground Saturday's Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – Race chairman Chris Clark preached patience and flexibility for several months and it has paid off.

Saturday in downtown Port Huron, the start of the 96th Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race will take place, with more than 100 boats and 1,000 competitors heading out into Lake Huron.

Boats will take off Saturday from Port Huron and head to Mackinac Island.

The race isn’t going to look or feel like previous Mackinac races because of the pandemic and adjustments that have been made accordingly. But everyone is still excited there will be a race this season.

“Excited, very excited,” said Clark of the mood leading to the race. “Excited that it’s going to happen. This is the only mid- to long-distance race that has occurred (around the country) since the shutdown started; even the races on the East Coast have been delayed.

“We’re going to get to sail.”

At times since mid-March, when the virus hit hard, it hasn’t always been optimistic for a race that didn’t even stop for world wars.

But Clark and his Bayview staff stayed the course and the patience proved fruitful, doing everything they could within reason and from a health standpoint.

“Certainly not at the expense of people’s health, but I was given the assignment of making a race happen – not of making a race not happen,” Clark said. “All we did was kept being patient and nothing stopped us. There was no flash of brilliance or dramatic change.

“Just, simply, nothing stopped us.”

But this will be a different Mackinac race, no question about it.

For one thing, the 105 boats registered accounts for approximately 50 percent of a usual field. Although given the circumstances, Bayview is pleased with the turnout.

There will be no Cove Island Course, just a Shore Course, because of border restrictions with Canada amid the pandemic.

There are no social events on Mackinac after the race, including the awards party. There will be no large gatherings before the race either.

“So the weather briefings, the skipper meetings, everything else is going to be virtually done, online,” Clark said.

Clark added the race “has gone 100 percent electronic. We’re not printing anything anymore. This drove us to a greening of the race.”

As for coronavirus, skippers on individual boats are responsible for the health and safety of their crews, although there are published guidelines also that boats must follow.

In terms of actual sailing given the weather conditions this weekend, Clark sees another tactical race – as the Mackinac races usually are.

“It’s going to be an overwhelmingly upwind race,” said Clark, who will sail aboard Ohana. “It’s going to be about a 24-hour race, and it’s going to be favoring going into the wind. An upwindish type of race.”

Twitter @tkulfan