High water levels will have some impact on Mackinac race

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
The Bayview Port Huron-to-Mackinac Race will begin July 20.

Detroit — Much has been written and talked about regarding the high water levels in the Great Lakes this year.

For the boats competing in the 95th Bayview Port Huron-to-Mackinac Race next month, the water levels are going to have subtle effects. 

“The biggest thing all this water is probably going to affect is the temperature,” said Bob Nutter, this year’s race chairman. “That’ll affect the wind and weather and how it occurs because Mother Nature, between the high pressure and low pressure and and the actual water temperature and air temperature, that’s what makes our wind.

“So, with the colder water, we’ll have a different style race, probably more wind.”

Nutter just competed in a race in which the finish time for the leading boats was the fastest on record.

The finish on Mackinac for the boats will also be affected – but in a positive way.

“When you get into a harbor, it’s actually more beneficial,” Nutter said. “Eight years ago, when we sailed into the Mackinac harbor where we line up the boats, there were sand bars in there you could run aground on.

“Not so anymore. And the island dredged all this, but then the water went up four feet so that won’t be a (factor) this year.”

Approximately 220 boats (and 2,500 competitors) are registered to compete in this year’s race on July 20, starting on Lake Huron, just north of the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron.

There are 38 first-time boats in the field, including Whitehawk, a 105-foot ketch, the longest boat to ever compete in the Mackinac race.

Nutter is pleased with the growing number of younger participants in the race.

“It’s very good our entries are way up from years before,” Nutter said. “The key is bringing the youth into the game and that’s what we’ve been working on, and now, we also do adult sailing lessons.”

Larry Bell, the Bell’s Beer founder and president, has sailed in seven of the races and believes this is a unique Michigan experience.

“It’s iconic,” said Bell, whose brewery is the title sponsor of the race. “To see 200 plus boats when you turn around, you see that for the first time and it takes your breath away. Just to be on the lakes during the night and watching the sun set on Lake Huron, and maybe you have the Northern Lights above you … all the wondrous things you see out there.”

Bayview held the annual kickoff press conference for the race Wednesday, with anticipation for the July race noticeable and growing.

“The love of the Great Lakes, the state of Michigan, it celebrates the whole shore line,” Bell said.

The race heads north on two courses — the shorter Shore Course, covering 204 nautical miles (235 statue miles) along the Michigan shoreline, and the longer Cove Island Course (259 nautical/298 statute miles).

More than 75,000 fans and family members are expected to attend festivities in downtown Port Huron on the two nights before the race begins.

95th Bayview Mackinac Race

When: 11:30 a.m. Saturday, July 20

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

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? More than 200 boats and more than 2,500 sailors will be participating.


Twitter @tkulfan