Birmingham father-daughter duo embrace physical challenge of Mackinac Race

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Merritt Sellers admits she does better when she gets a full sleep and is well rested.

But there may not be all that much time to shut her eyes this weekend competing in the Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race.

Merritt Sellers and her father, Scott Sellers, are racing "double-handed."

Sellers and her father, Scott Sellers, are racing "double-handed," just two people on the boat, a growing, and increasingly popular category of racing.

"I don't do very well (with limited sleep), it'll definitely be a big test for me," Merritt said. "Less so for my dad. He does pretty well with less sleep."

But the adrenaline will be pumping for Merritt, 14, who has been pointing to this race for a long time.

"When I was little my dad would joke that some day we could do a double-handed race, and this is something I've been working toward most of my life," Merritt said.

Both father and daughter competed last year in the Mackinac on their boat "nosurprise" with a full, eight-person crew. But this particular year, they wanted the challenge of the two-handed race, a class that has eight boats scheduled to compete.

"We've been talking about doing this for a while and just felt this would be a good year to do it," said Scott Sellers, whose family sailed extensively then growing up in Birmingham (now spend the summers in Harbor Springs). "She did her first Mackinac race last year and proved she could do the over night race. We're sailing the Shore Course so it's a little shorter race, a little more manageable."

Merritt Sellers

There is a certain appeal to double-handed racing, as compared to a crew.

"More of an adventure," Scott said. "It's challenging, a little different. I've done a double-handed race from Chicago to Mackinac, so I've had that experience before, and it just feels like a bigger adventure, a physical challenge.

"I love the competition of more boats, if you're doing crew, but this is a little different experience. And this (sailing with his daughter) is one of those things you want to accomplish."

Scott and Merritt Sellers

Merritt is an accomplished sailor in her own right, having sailed in a variety of race including recently competing in the junior national championships (she finished seventh in her division).

"I would love to be a professional sailor," Merritt said. "That's definitely something I'd like to do. I want to continue to grow (in the sport) and maybe one day do an ocean race. That would be real cool."

Saturday's 98th sailing of the Bayview Mackinac Race began north of the Blue Water Bridge in southern Lake Huron and will conclude near Mission Point on Mackinac Island. The first boats are expected to arrive in the early morning hours Monday.

A total of 178 boats were registered this year, a testament to the level of competition and tradition associated with this race.

"It's a family sport, and they have been sailing for generations," said Chris Clark, the 2022 race chairman. "There are four generations on some boats, and it's passed down to the grandkids, the tradition of it, and that's something special you just cannot get in a lot of (recreational sports)."

Merritt Sellers

Most weather models are predicting a slow race, generally, adding to the challenge of one of the North America's most treacherous races.

"This is a tough place to sail," Clark said. "We've got people of a very high caliber competing. We have America's Cup winners who are doing the race, multiple world champions. The level of competition is very high.

"(And) you have the Great Lakes in the summer, you've got variable conditions, and they're changing constantly. It's a challenge."

Twitter: @tkulfan