Millennials lift sails for Mackinac Race fervor

Ted Kulfan

Detroit — The resurgence in young people living in downtown Detroit has produced an interesting dynamic — people wanting to learn to sail, and becoming interested in the sport.

That was one of the topics talked about Wednesday during Media Day for the 93rd Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race that startsJuly 22.

A total of 214 boats are registered — there could be as many 225, with some 2,500 sailors expected— in what is considered one of the world’s premier sailing races.

And a staple of summer in Michigan, where sailing has always been big — and getting bigger.

“With the resurgence of Detroit, we’re seeing a lot of younger people coming downtown and deciding to establish residence and they’re looking for things to do,” said Hans Brieden, Bayview Yacht Club Commodore. “We had a huge Learn to Sail class, one our biggest ever, by simply putting the word out. We’re getting people on the water with junior sailing and adult sailing, a span of ages.”

It’s important, said Brieden, to get people acquainted with the sport of sailing who would otherwise not consider participating.

“It’s not a sport where you win money to offset your expenses,” Brieden said. “(We’re) finding ways to make it affordable, inviting people who want to participate to get to know before they decide to own their own boat.

“We’re creating ways to allow people to walk into this without thinking it’s some ultra-rich sport. It’s really not. People who own boats here (at Bayview) and are members are everyday people and they’re out there working hard and making things happen and we’re proud to have them.”

What has always made sailing appealing, and is attraction to would-be sailors currently, is the pull of the water and chance to have fun with family and friends.

Which is also a special part of the tradition-based Mackinac race, which often has generations of family sailors on board.

“A lot people enjoying sailing with their friends and families, it’s just about getting out (into the water),” said Tricia Smotherman, race chairman. “They just like sailing and they like coming to well organized events.

“(And) it’s another vacation once you get onto Mackinac Island.”

One of the changes for this year’s race is the rating system that will be used to handicap boats on the Shore Course.

This year, ORR-ez rules will be utilized to have more competitive racing, based on a boat’s sail inventory, sail size and how much crew a boat will carry to determine its handicap.

The annual Pro Team Sports Challenge will also be taking place within the Mackinac Race, with boats representing the Tigers, Lions, Pistons and Red Wings.

Comstock-based Bell’s Brewery returns as the title sponsor for a seventh consecutive year.

“It’s an iconic sports event in Michigan,” said Scott Powell, Bell’s Brewery director of marketing. “We like to partner with events that celebrate Michigan and make it unique. We have this beautiful natural resource, the Grate Lakes, and people are enjoying them, and the camaraderie, sense of nature, and enjoying time with your family and friends.

“It’s a real great fit.”

93rd Bayview Mackinac Race

When: 11:30 a.m., Saturday July 22

Where: Lake Huron, just north of the Blue Water Bridge.

Courses: The Shore Course, covering 204 nautical miles (235 statute miles) along the Michigan shore — and the Cove Island Course, 259 nautical miles (298 statute miles) going to the Bruce Peninsula before heading west to Mackinac.

Did you know? Approximately 225 are expected to compete with more than 2,500 sailors participating.