Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race gets back to normal this year

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit —  This year’s Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race is looking a little more familiar.

The 97th consecutive sailing of the race begins Saturday morning on Lake Huron, just north of Port Huron’s Blue Water Bridge and will end up on Mackinac.

The 97th Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race begins Saturday.

A total of 181 boats were registered Friday afternoon, with more than 2,500 sailors scheduled to take part in what is considered in the sailing community one of the most difficult, historic and tradition-rich races in North America.

"The moment the race is over, we will begin planning for next year," said Greg Thomas, race chairman. "It's like Christmas. It brings together so many people. It's a sport we love, it's a competitive sport and you can compete at any age. We have 83-year-old people out there who are very good sailors.

"It's a boat ride, and if you're a boater there's nothing better than a boat ride, on an absolutely beautiful, fresh water lake.

"And then you have the competitive aspect. It's difficult because you're sailing against a lot of good sailors. You're trying to sniff out the wind. It's challenging physically because you're going 24 hours and sometimes it gets violent out there with the thunderstorms. Violent waves. It's very demanding physically, demanding to finish the race."

The race went on in 2020 but it wasn't a typical race to Mackinac.

There were 105 boats competing, approximately half of the field, and Mackinac was pretty much deserted.

"We were lucky enough to get the race off last year, one of a just a handful that were able (to race in the country)," Thomas said. "We were able to pull it off but it was real different. We had no presence on the island, whatsoever because of the pandemic.

"We had people to check the (boats) in and that was it. We didn't have a finish line committee, our finish was all virtual using the trackers. We had no harbor crew because we had no harbor. We had nothing but skipper check in."

Here's a clear example that things are back to normal: there will be an awards party at Woodfill Park Tuesday near the Grand Hotel.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions (Canada will not allow pleasure craft onto its water), competitors will sail on the 204 nautical miles (235 statute miles) Shore Course along the Michigan shoreline heading west to the Mackinac.

The longer Cove Island course, which briefly got into Canada, has been axed.

"It's much more dynamic," said Thomas of the Shore Course. "The Shore Course creeps up along Michigan and it creates a dynamic situation. It's a little bit harder to sail in because you have the land and the wind and you're not just predicting weather patterns, but how the wind interacts with the shore."

If the forecast proves accurate, this should be a quick race with the majority of the fleet finishing Sunday night.

"Looks like a fast race, the winds will have good volume the whole time," Thomas said. "Finishing Sunday (for most boats), that rarely ever happens."

Twitter: @tkulfan

Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race

►When: Saturday, 11 a.m.

►Where: Lake Huron just north of Port Huron's Blue Water Bridge.

►Who: Approximately 185 boats, with 2,500 sailors, will tackle the 204-nautical miles (235 statute miles) Shore Course along the coast onto Mackinac Island. Boats should be finishing Sunday night.

Sailing fans around the world can track individual boats or the entire fleet on the official race site,