DETROIT, MICH. (July 19, 2018) – Tediously light winds made for one of the slowest Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Races in decades. In fact, the 94-year-old distance race, which started Saturday, July 14 on lower Lake Huron, was so slow that at Tuesday’s final party at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel, awards were handed out as some competitors were still finishing up. Most years, the first boats finish on Sunday, but this year the first two finishers –The Reichel/Pugh Max Z86 Windquest and the Reichel/Pugh 74 Wizard, the largest boats in the race – didn’t arrive until Monday morning.
“Eleven boats were still out there when we started Tuesday’s awards party at 11 a.m., and when the band stopped playing at 3:30 p.m., four boats were still out,” said Chairman Gary Shoemaker. He further explained that after the two big boats finished, there was not another single finisher until seven Santa Cruz 70s finished, interestingly, within 15 minutes of each other at 4pm Monday afternoon. “By midnight only 18 boats had finished, and by 6 a.m. on Tuesday there were 33 left to go, so in six hours we finished 146 boats or 75% of the fleet,” said Shoemaker, commending the Race Committee on their diligent efforts.
Winners were named in all 17 classes that had sailed one or the other of two distance courses offered: the 204 nm Shore Course and the 259 nm Cove Island Course. The overall prize in Division II went to brothers Al and Bob Declercq (St. Clair Shores, Mich,) who systematically outsailed all other classes on the Shore Course with their Declercq 36 Flying Buffalo.
Both Declerqs, who each have won “30 or so” Mackinac Races, found this edition of the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac satisfying despite the frustrating conditions. “Flying Buffalo is not a light-air boat, and we were able to win in our worst conditions, so we’re happy about that,” said Al Declerq. He cited the S&S Pilot 33Albacore and the Tartan 34 Chippewa as the closest competitors in their Class O (they finished second and third to Flying Buffalo, respectively), and overall, the Beneteau First 42 Comfortably Numb (winner of Class N and second overall on the Shore Course) was “right there.” “We tried to watch them and sail with them the whole time instead of separating; I’d rather be close and try to outsail them instead of far away and just having luck come into play,” he said.
Declerq also described a squall with 30 mph winds that hit them 40 miles from the finish line (about 4 p.m. on Monday). “It lasted only 20 minutes, and we switched to smaller sails. We were side-by-side with another boat in our class; we were ready, they were not, and in ten minutes we were a mile ahead of them.”
Matthew Schaedler’s J/122 Blitzkrieg won overall in Division I on the Cove Island Course. Representing North Cape Yacht Club in Monroe, Michigan (north of Toledo, Ohio, where Schaedler is from), the boat and team made an impression on everyone. “When you think of the rocket ships on our long course, it’s amazing that this J/122 came from a great distance and just smoked everybody,” said Chairman Shoemaker.
Taking Division III for Multihulls (also sailing the Cove Island Course) was Ben Gougeon and Alan Gurski’s (Bay City, Mich.) Gougeon 35 trimaran Adagio.
“This year was nearly twice the time on the water as last year’s race, requiring a second night at sea,” said Gurski. “Nights are when races are lost.”
On the first night, when the wind was light and variable, Adagio was able to gain separation from the fleet by constantly changing sails and trimming. On night two, the wind was much better and Adagio increased its separation by staying focused and gearing up and down with sail changes as required. Day three served up heavier air, and it was all about maintaining concentration, as fatigue was at its worst. “There wasn’t any rest for the crew on day three,” said Gurski. “We have a great fleet of smart and seasoned sailors, and we knew the boats behind us were in better air for longer and would take advantage of that to cover their handicaps. Some were running right down the rhumb line, making great VMG. We knew it would be very tight on corrected, so we just kept pressing all the way to the island.
The last finisher, or “the pickle boat” as some call it, was the Seidelmann 299 Sojourner, which is owned and raced by the Boy Scouts of America Sea Scout Ship 1148. They had spent three years renovating their boat and preparing for the race, so giving up was not an option. The team arrived in port Tuesday evening.
“I’m so proud of them, that they finished what they started,” said Shoemaker. A total of 42 boats weren’t so dogged and dropped out, some in the first 24 hours, having run out of food, water and patience in the light winds.
Sponsors for the 2018 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race include Bell's Brewery, Grand Hotel, Gill, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry, North Sails, Pentastar Aviation, Legal Copy Services, Aitken & Ormond Insurance, Frankenmuth Insurance, Coral Reef Sailing Apparel, Vortexx Pressure Washers, Sykes & Webster, and Bayview Yacht Club Foundation. Supporters are Detroit Sports Media, Marx Layne, Freighter’s Eatery & Tap Room, Futuramic Tool and Engineering, General RV Center, It’s Your Window, Marygrove Awnings, Mike's Marine Supply, Offshore Spars, Pink Pony - Chippewa Hotel, and Thomas Hardware Company.