2008-08-09 / Top News

Mackinac-to-Manitoulin Sailors Enjoy Best Sailing Conditions Ever for Race

By Caitlyn Kienitz

Sailors depart Mackinac Island en route to Gore Bay, Ontario, for the first leg of the Mackinac-to-Manitoulin yacht race Thursday, July 24. Strong winds allowed the boats to put up their downwind sails for the entire leg of the race, said Dave Rowe of the Mackinac Island Yacht Club. "It was an amazing race," Mr. Rowe said. "It was just like a sleigh ride." (Photograph courtesy of Jeff Dupre) Sailors depart Mackinac Island en route to Gore Bay, Ontario, for the first leg of the Mackinac-to-Manitoulin yacht race Thursday, July 24. Strong winds allowed the boats to put up their downwind sails for the entire leg of the race, said Dave Rowe of the Mackinac Island Yacht Club. "It was an amazing race," Mr. Rowe said. "It was just like a sleigh ride." (Photograph courtesy of Jeff Dupre) Several photo finishes marked the conclusion of the fifth annual Mackinac-to- Manitoulin race Saturday, July 26. The two-leg race, which covers about 125 nautical miles, departed Mackinac Island Thursday, July 24, stopping overnight in Gore Bay, Ontario, before finishing in Little Current.

Dave Rowe of the Mackinac Island Yacht Club said the conditions were perfect.

"It was an amazing race," he said. "The boats literally surfed, we were going so fast."

The sailors experienced winds of 20 to 25 knots downwind during both legs of the race.

"It's rare to have sailing conditions last for three days like they did," said Mr. Rowe. "It was by far the best sailing conditions we've ever had for this race."

The race to Manitoulin Island is sponsored by the Little Current Yacht Club, which was founded five years ago.

"We found out we had to have a yacht club to have a race," said race official Dave Naples. "The Little Current Yacht Club basically started because we wanted to start this race."

Little Current Yacht Club has about 70 members, half from Little Current and the rest from around Ontario, Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois.

What sets the Manitoulin race apart is the area it sails through, Mr. Naples said, which is past a mountain range and shores filled with white, black, and pink boulders.

"The North Channel has been voted one of the top three sailing destinations," he said. "It's beautiful country, just gorgeous. Thousands of cruising boats come through just to see the scenery."

For boaters, the North Channel provides many navigational challenges as well. Dennis Centis, a racer from Sudbury, Ontario, said he loves navigating the channel.

"This is truly a navigator's race," he said. "The crew finds it very exciting."

Mr. Centis has raced his boat Azzurro in every Manitoulin race and said the competition is important, but the communities and people involved in the race are what makes it special.

"We've forged friendships with the people we've met here," he said. "We've been to Savannah, Georgia, to visit friends we've met in this race, and they've come to Ontario to spend weekends with us."

He said that all three communities involved in the race embrace the sailors and give them a great reception.

"The community involvement at each port is tops," said Mr. Centis, mentioning the fish fry that greets sailors in Gore Bay. "It's so great that each community is so accommodating."

For many of the Canadian sailors, the Mackinac-to-Manitoulin race provides an opportunity to cruise down to Mackinac and take in some of the sights along the way, such as Drummond Island. Rick Collins of Sudbury, Ontario, who placed second in this year's race with his boat, I Can Too, said he enjoys the cruise coming to Mackinac.

"We get to visit different ports and visit Canada's neighbor to the south," he said. "Sailing is a pretty relaxing sport."

Of the 25 boats participating in the race, 15 sailed both legs. The remaining 10 joined the fleet at Gore Bay. Ginger Kay, owned by Dick Lappin of Rogers City, took first place overall.

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