About 180 sailboats paraded up the St. Clair River Saturday morning for the start of the 97th consecutive Port Huron to Mackinac Island sailboat race.
Under gray skies and rain, bagpipes could be heard coming from the Port Huron Yacht Club, something that had been missing from the scaled down 2020 race.
While the weather brought umbrellas out for spectators, sailors were still able to have a spinnaker start in Lake Huron.
“I do remember my first Mackinac race, it was very memorable,” Adam Warmack of Detroit said, standing on a Black River dock before heading to Lake Huron.
The boat’s battery died and the alternator stopped working. The crew had to leave the race, limping back from Harbor Beach to Detroit and dodging freighters along the way.
“That was a very, very long day,” he said.
Although it was a disappointing first race, Warmack didn’t let it discourage him.
This is his sixth year racing, sailing with the crew on Zubenelgenubi, named for a navigational star.
He was both anxious and excited.
“It’s like Christmas morning,” he said. “You look forward to it all week.”
The first 2021 Bayview Mackinac Race boats crossed the starting line at 11:30 a.m. on Lake Huron, just north of the Blue Water Bridge.
Greg Thomas, 2021 Bayview Mackinac Race chairperson, has said all boats will be on the Shore Course this year due to pandemic border restrictions.
He said the race pace is highly dependent on weather. The first boats usually start to arrive at Mackinac Island Sunday night and the bulk finish between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday.
As Ben Sullivan of Clyde township and his daughter, Delaney, 7, walked down the sidewalk, he said he wanted to go through and pick out the winning boat.
This was their first time coming to watch the beginning of the race. He thought it was pretty unique, not something you see every day, and Delaney said the boats were cool and wanted to check out an interior cabin.
“It feels exciting, you don’t know which is going to win, so we want to cheer them on,” she said.
Farther northeast on the Black River, Oak Park resident Jay Raubolt, Macomb Township resident Justin Fowler and Matt Younkie of Windsor, Canada, folded the upwind sails of Mostly Harmless, a reference to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
Raubolt and Younkie were planning on sailing, but Fowler was going to drive to meet them on the island.
Fowler said he’s helped with the boat the past six years, barring last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and he does race boats, “but not this race, I’m new to sailing and this is a big jump from what I normally do.”
He likes the excitement of the race, the atmosphere, and hopes to join the crew in the future.
“It’s exciting, everyone’s been looking forward to it,” he said.
Raubolt said he grew up sailing and his dad raced to Mackinac Island, so it’s “kind of like a whole family affair.”
This is his ninth year in a row racing and he said winning keeps him coming back. He’s won a flag six out of eight races and said hopefully this year will be the seventh out of nine.
Younkie, on the other hand, has been sailing for three years and this will be his first Port Huron to Mackinac Island sailboat race.
He wanted to do it for the “thrill of it.” A lot of people have this race on their bucket list and it was a blessing he could go. For him, it’s about being at least a neutral, if not positive, impact on his team.
“I’m just hoping for a safe race we have fun on,” he said.
Sailing fans can track individual boats or the entire fleet on the official race site, www.bycmack.com, through Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking devices on each boat provided by YB Tracking.
Contact Bryce Airgood at (810) 989-6202 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bairgood123.
Read More:Port Huron celebrates 97th Bayview Mackinac Race despite rain