This will be Rich Marsh’s 53rd Port Huron to Mackinac Race, which is impressive.
But, then you hear about Marsh’s boat Albacore, which is racing in its 72nd Mackinac race. And its crew has four others on board who’ve raced more than 25 Mackinac races.
You talk about experience being a factor in the sailboat race — Albacore has it in every way.
“My dad bought this boat in 1958 and I’ve lived on it ever since,” said Marsh, of Beverly Hills, whose father, Marv, raced Albacore to Mackinac in 1959 and has remained in the Marsh family for 60 years.
“It’s one of those milestones in life, but probably more important to me is both of my kids are racing with me. They like doing it, and they’re planning on keeping doing it when I get too old to go."
Albacore is one of only 10 Sparkman & Stephens designed Pilots that were built at Fisher Body Works in Detroit after World War II.
There are three other Detroit Pilots still sailing — but only Albacore is still racing.
“I don’t know if the (Mackinac) race has changed, per se, but when we started in the 1950s we were a mid-sized boat,” Marsh said. “There were two classes bigger and two smaller. Now, 50 years later, we’re not in the smallest class, but we’re one up from the smallest.
“All of the new boats are bigger and faster, and people have gone a long way in boat technology. But we just happen to like our boat and we keep sailing it.”
Rich Marsh was 12 when he sailed with his dad to Mackinac in 1964. His son David will be competing in his 16th race on board, while daughter Carolyn will be in her ninth Mackinac race.
Crew members Paul Richards (White Lake), Laurie Russie (Troy) and Bob Falberg (Bloomfield Hills) are Old Goats, meaning they're all past 25 races.
“My dad was a lifelong sailor and this is one of those things you just do,” Marsh said. “We’ve done it for years and years. My wife (Nancy) is a sailor, so it’s a just a strong group of real good friends that go do it and we love doing it.
“You’re doing it with friends on your boat — at least with the size of the boat we sail, we’re one one of the smallest boats in the fleet. It’s all family and friends and it’s a great time that we look forward to every year.”
Records at Bayview Yacht Club indicate George Hendrie Jr. (66 races) and Lee Smith (63) are the top two Grand Rams (50 or more races) in Mackinac race history.
Marsh doesn’t know if he’ll reach Hendrie’s total, but he’s going to keep sailing as long as he can.
“I’m probably good for another 10 years,” Marsh said. “I might get into the 60s. I don’t know if I have 13 more years but who knows?
“When you get to the mid-60s, it’s a pretty amazing accomplishment. A lot of those folks started a long time ago when they were in their 20s or 30s. I was fortunate enough to get started at 13.”
The lure of sailing, especially in this race, hasn’t left Marsh.
“Sailing in the middle of the lake and long-distance racing, it’s so different from any of the shorter races,” Marsh said. “You get away from the world, the phones stop, and it’s just a nice sailing experience.
“We know a lot of the people we race against; we’ve raced against them for years. It’s kind of a big group gathering.”
94th Bayview Mackinac Race
When: 11:30 a.m. Saturday
Where: Lake Huron, just north of the Blue Water Bridge.
Courses: The Shore Course — covers 204 nautical miles (235 statute miles) along the Michigan shore. The Cove Island Course — covers 259 nautical miles (298 statute miles) going to the Bruce Peninsula before heading west to Mackinac.
Did you know? Over 200 boats are expected to compete with more than 2,500 sailors participating.