Sometimes Aeolus is kind. Sometimes he’s not. But rarely is the ancient Greek “keeper of the winds” as entirely absent as he was for much of this year’s Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race.
How slow was the 2018 running of the 94-year-old distance race, which always starts on a Saturday in mid-July on lower Lake Huron? So slow that by the time the awards were being handed out the following Tuesday as part of the final party at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel, a number competitors were still on the course. So slow that dozens of the 197 boats that crossed the starting line ended up dropping out, many within the first 24 hours.
Most years, the first boats to finish do so on Sunday. But this time around the first two finishers, the Reichel/Pugh Max Z86 Windquest and the Reichel/Pugh 74 Wizard, didn’t arrive until Monday morning. Not only that but when the fleet finally came, it did so en masse, making for plenty work at the finish.
According to race chairman Gary Shoemaker, after Windquest and Wizard there was not another boat until the next seven teams all finished within 15 minutes of one another late that same afternoon. “By midnight only 18 boats had finished, and by 0600 on Tuesday there were 33 left to go, so we finished 146 boats in only six hours,” Shoemaker said. Heavens, and much of that in the dark of night. Pity the poor race committee!
Winning this year’s race 204-mile “Shore Course” division aboard their Declercq 36 Flying Buffalo were Al and Bob Declercq. Winning the longer 259-mile “Cove Island” course, which includes a turning mark over on the Canadian side of Lake Huron, was Matthew Schaedler’s J/122 Blitzkrieg. Taking first in the multihull division were Ben Gougeon and Alan Gurski’s 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,” Gurski said afterward. “Nights are when races are lost.”
Finally, kudos to “the pickle boat,” or last-place finisher, the Seidelmann 299 Sojourner, owned and raced by the Boy Scouts of America Sea Scout Ship 1148. As fate would have it, they had just spent three years renovating their boat in preparation for the race, so giving up was not an option—and they didn’t, ultimately crossing the line early Tuesday evening. Nice job, guys! If any sailors taking part in this year’s drift-fest have reason to be proud it’s you!
For complete results from this year’s Bayview Mackinac Race, visit bycmack.com.
Photo courtesy of Martin Chumiecki/Bayview Yacht Club