by Kirsten Ferguson
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s telegram said it all: the Bayview Mackinac Race is too precious to cancel during wartime. Well, maybe that’s not exactly how it read, but if you read between his lines, that’s what he meant when he wired event organizers during World War II after word reached the White House that host Bayview Yacht Club was considering canceling the race. Actually, the message read, in no uncertain words: “Sail your race.”
So when the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race held a press conference last Tuesday (May 13) and said that this year it was celebrating 90 consecutive editions of one of the most challenging freshwater boat races in the world, no one dared to argue. Especially with the announcement of its many non-profit partner community events (Metro Detroit Acura Dealers’ Set Sail for Autism and the Less Cancer Ride, to name two), it was clear that the event is more than just precious. It is woven into the very fabric of the lives of the approximately 2500 sailors who will compete on 230 or more sailboats this year as well as the many communities it touches along its route from Port Huron, where it starts Saturday, July 12, to Mackinac Island where it finishes.
Pistons, Lions, Red Wings and Tigers PRO TEAM CHALLENGE team representatives (from left): Rick Mahorn, mascot “Roary”, Jim Brandstatter, mascot “Hooper”, Heather Garey, Ken Kal, mascot “Paws”, Dave Rozema. Image copyright Bill Eisner
Adding a “hoot” factor to the conference was the choosing of teams for the Bayview Mackinac Pro Team Challenge, created by the club five years ago to generate more exposure for the race by having Michigan sports teams – the Pistons, Red Wings, Tigers and Lions – each sponsor a different boat in the race. Jim Brandstatter (Lions), Dave Rozema (Tigers), Ken Kal (Red Wings) and Rick Mahorn (Pistons) selected their 2014 boats after John Mason, the Pistons public address announcer, introduced them. The athletes do not have to sail in the race, but their teams provide the crews of the selected boats shirts, hats and a flag. The specific sports team whose boat wins the Pro Team Challenge then hosts the boat crew at one of their games. All in all, a “hoot” that carries on long after the race is finished.
Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Dave Rozema chose the father-son team that will sail aboard USA 25683 Christina With a Sea II for the Pro Team Challenge at the 2014 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race. From left: (front row) Tommy Caulfield, Colin Hexter, Stuart Fletcher, Ryan Hexter; (middle row) Daniel Gerhardstein, Leo Buchanan; (back row) Tom Caulfield, Dave Rozema. Image copyright Bob Benko
“This is a great year for Bayview Yacht Club and the 90th Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race,” said Bayview Yacht Club Commodore Tim Prophit. “The club itself is celebrating its 99th anniversary, and the 2014 race is off to a great start event before the gun goes off. We have witnessed an increase in the number of boats registered to date as well as growth in our sponsorships and community outreach.”
Entering the fourth year as the event’s title sponsor, Kalamazoo-based Bell’s Brewery is expanding its engagement and social media presence aimed at increasing direct involvement with fans and competitors.
“This year, we are planning use of social media to engage sailors and spectators with the goal of encouraging more direct participation with the race,” said Bell’s Beer Vice President Laura Bell. “We have witnessed our brand grow, at pre- and post-race parties and our Oberon Ale has become the de facto official beer of the race. It is such an honor to have our company’s name on a signature event that showcases the best our Michigan has to offer.”
Bell’s Brewery founder and owner, Larry Bell, understands the benefits of the company’s investment in the race to it brand, “As a company with strong Michigan-based roots, we are proud to continue our support of this world-class event. As a fan and competitor in the race, I am thrilled that our sponsorship has allowed Bayview to focus on the making the completion stronger for the racers.”
An estimated 100,000 sailing fans and families attend the festive activities in Port Huron leading to the Saturday start, and the economic value of the race has been figured between $30 and $59 million, depending on weather conditions, making it one of the premier events hosted in the state of Michigan and one with major economic impact for tourism and a host of local Michigan businesses.
Joining Bell’s Beer again in 2014 are key partners: Metro Detroit Acura Dealers, Soaring Eagle Properties, Grand Hotel along with the new announcement of a partnership with the outstanding sail maker, Quantum Sail Design Group.
More about the Race
From its traditional start in Southern Lake Huron, the fleet will head North on one of two courses. The shorter course, called the “Acura Shore Course," covers 204 nautical miles (235 statute miles) along the Michigan shoreline before heading west to Mackinac Island Bell's Beer finish line. The longer "Quantum Sails Cove Island Course" is 259 nautical miles (298 statute miles) and takes sailors around a buoy off the tip of the Bruce Peninsula in Canadian waters before heading west toward the finish line.
This year five Divisions will be offered: Cove Island Racing; Shore Course Racing; Shore Course Cruising; Multi-Hull; and Double-Handed. All competitors will be handicapped using Performance Handicap Racing Fleet system.
Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Quicklinks:
Online Race Tracking (Yellowbrick icon here will be activated at start)
More About Bayview Yacht ClubBayview Yacht Club, founded in 1915, is widely regarded as the premier sailing club in Michigan and the Midwest. It has been hosting the Bayview Mackinac Race since 1925. The private club is located on the Detroit River near the mouth of Lake St. Clair and has more than 1,000 members. For more information: www.byc.com.