Racing for the 93rd Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race concluded when the last team of 191 to complete the race finished on Monday, July 24. The celebrations, however, continued through Tuesday for more than 5,000 sailors, their family members and friends gathered on the grounds of Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel for a prize giving and party that included live music and the awarding of special trophies as well as Larry Bell’s announcement of a two-year extension of title sponsorship for Bell’s Brewery.
After the start on Saturday, July 22, there were 123 teams competing on the 254 nautical-mile Cove Island course and 82 teams racing on the shorter 204 nm Shore Course. With rain and several storms to encounter, some boats retired, but for most, the race was extraordinarily fast and satisfying, even accounting for one record-breaking performance.
Peter Thornton’s Volvo 70 Il Mostro beat its own course record established in 2015, setting a new Elapsed Time Cove Island Course Monohull Record of21:45:12. (The previous record was 23:39:54.) The team was 15 seconds away from beating the current Multihull Course Record set by the ORMA 60Arete in 2016 of 21:44:58. Il Mostro’s speed averaged approximately 11.7 knots throughout the race.
After crossing the finish line at 11:25:12 Sunday morning, Thornton described how at one point in the race, about 20 miles from Cove Island, his team was clipping along, approximately 30 miles in front of all other teams. “Then we sailed into a hole for two hours and Wizard was the only one who stayed with us; the rest of the fleet saw us stalled and went to the Michigan shore.” After Il Mostro got going again, a storm harboring gusts of “mostly 25 knots, up to 30” carried the boat at an average of 21 knots up the straights to Mackinac Island.
“It was fun –a great race,” said Thornton. “We’re just happy to be out there doing this.”
Taking the overall win on the Shore Course was Mark Miller's Beneteau First 42 Comfortably Numb, which also topped the 18-boat Cruising Class M.
“They said it would be a quick race, and it was," said Miller, who finished Sunday at 17:05:47. "I’ve never been that far up the course that early, that fast. Near Alpena and Hammond Bay, there was storm after storm after storm. We took down our asymmetrical spinnaker and were jib reaching, battling three others in our class for 10 to 12 hours. I’ve done 34 Macs and never finished that early."
Phil and Sharon O’Niel and their team on the TP52 Natalie J took overall honors on the Cove Island course after finishing yesterday at 14:53:14 and winning their 13-boat Class A.
“This is our fifth time to win overall...I’m incredibly excited," said Phil O'Niel, who has sailed the race a total of 40 times. "I don’t think anyone has had five overalls in the same boat."
Noting he finished in about 26 hours, O’Niel also said this was the fastest “Bayview Mac” he’d ever logged. "We were never off the breeze all the way to Cove Island. I can’t ever remember going upwind (for 140 miles) that long, or getting that wet. (Saturday was torrential rain.) We were fourth around Cove Island but got around other boats from there when it became a fun, fast downwind course.”
But O'Niel also recalled it wasn't all easy. "We ran into storms, but thankfully you could see them coming. They really blasted us, so we took down the spinnaker. Then the last 15 miles the wind died, which brought up the Santa Cruz 70s, which are fast downwind and way bigger. But we were ahead of them and able to hold our time differential on them. (The Santa Cruz 70s, Stripes and Evolution, were second and third overall on the Cove Island Course)."
Winning the Multihulls, which also sailed the Cove Island Course in their own division, was Adagio, a Gougeon 35 Trimaran owned by Ben Gougeon and Alan Gurski.
This year, the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race benefited Set Sail for Autism and Alliance for the Great Lakes.