At long last, retired naval officer Jeff Daudert set to sail Bayview Mackinac Race

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — It was on Jeff Daudert's bucket list ever since he could remember.

Daudert, a retired naval officer, was set to sail the Bayview Port Huron-to-Mackinac Race back in 2000.

"Excited and geared to do the race, and, lo and behold, we had the birth of our firstborn, my daughter," Daudert said. "Eleven months later, my first son was born. We didn't do it that year, either. And I was on active duty Navy, and we got transferred and moved around and I never got to do it.

"Life happened."

Jeff Daudert of Clinton Township will be competing in the Port Huron-to-Mackinac race on his boat Relentless, a C&C 121.

Daudert, 52, is finally doing it. He's sailing aboard his boat Relentless, a C&C 121, taking his 13-year-old son Alex, two other first-timers, and one veteran, Rob Harris, a regular sailing partner of Daudert's who has done the race before.

"I've wanted to do this race for years," Daudert said. "Just never got to do it. We watched everybody else have a blast."

Daudert is a rookie to the Mackinac race but not necessarily to sailing, as he's had a passion for years and has done offshore racing.

More: Lynn Kotwicki makes history, milestone in Port Huron-to-Mackinac sailboat race

Daudert was born and raised in Kalamazoo, and currently lives in Clinton Township. His love for sailing comes from many days as a youth sailing Lake Michigan with his uncle, Charles Daudert.

"He got me into sailing," Daudert said. "We had a fantastic relationship growing up, we were real close. I grew up sailing and racing on Lake Michigan with him. Now it's interesting as we go through life and I find myself in his shoes, looking down at my son, and it's kind of heartwarming all my boys really enjoy it. We're just carrying on his legacy."

Daudert and his uncle sailed the Gulf of Mexico.

"A little more than 500 nautical miles. We weren't racing but it's the same thing because you're out in the elements and relying on your skills and keeping the boat moving and staying safe," Daudert said.

As the actual race on Saturday gets closer, Daudert has had emotions of excitement along with thoughts of "What have I gotten myself into?"

"A little of both," Daudert said. "Two days ago, I realized, 'Holy crap, I'm so nervous, excited.' I've calmed down a bit, but we're going up against some really well-sailed race boats. It's a different kind of nerves, but still excited.

"We got here (Thursday) and it's been a lot of fun. We're ready. The biggest thing is people underestimate the power of the Great Lakes. From a Navy perspective, they're basically fresh body oceans and it can get pretty nasty out there if you're not ready."

98th Bayview Mackinac Race

► When: 11:30 a.m. Saturday

► 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. The Cove Island Course, 259 nautical miles (290 statute miles) which takes boats into Canadian waters. Both courses finish at Mission Point.

► Did you know? More than 180 boats are expected to compete, with more than 2,000 sailors participating. It's the longest consecutively run long-distance freshwater race.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan