2017-07-14 / Top News

Yacht Racers Set Sail for Island

By Cathryn Lien

Mackinac Island has been busy this week preparing for sailors and yachts from two of its premier summer events, the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac arriving Saturday and the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race from Port Huron, hitting the waters Saturday, July 22.

“It’s breathtaking to see the colorful sailboats in the harbor,” said Tim Hygh, director of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau. He said the Chicago and Port Huron yacht races have been the highlight of Julys on Mackinac Island since the 1920s, creating a sizeable, positive economic impact and drawing visitors by the thousands on an international level.

“During the yacht races, businesses boom.” Mr. Hygh said. “It’s flattering to Mackinac Island and local residents to be part of both of these races’ longstanding traditions.”

The Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac and Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race bring crowds and revenue that rival the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival and the Island’s Fourth of July festivities.

Tricia Smotherman, the 2017 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race chair, said the relationship between Mackinac Island and the Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit has always been strong.

“For the 93 years we’ve had the race, I’ve only ever heard positive things,” Ms. Smotherman said.

She notes that in past years some of the sailors have been rowdy, but the Mackinac Island Police Department has “always been gracious,” and in recent years the yacht races have been more family-focused.

Ms. Smotherman has spent the days leading up to the race working on last- minute registration of boats. As of now, 214 boats are registered in the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race, with yachts coming from all over the Great Lakes region and sailors coming from all parts of the world.

When the sailboats in the Bayview race dock at the harbor, many of the sailors and their families will enjoy Mackinac Island’s attractions, shops, and restaurants.

“You’ll see the sailors returning to their yachts with Butterfly House stickers on their shirts,” Ms. Smotherman said.

In last year’s Bayview race, Captain Rick Warner of the Aréte, named for the Greek word meaning “striving for excellence,” was first to the finish line and beat the world’s speed record by 1.5 hours. He grew up in Michigan and first competed in the Port Huron-to-Mackinac race in 2002 on a CNC yacht named Freedom. Participating on and off over the years, Mr. Warner said that Mackinac Island has always been a great host.

“We always book a room, go hiking in the state park, and it’s a tradition to go to Pink Pony,” Mr. Warner said. He praised the hospitality of Bayview Bed & Breakfast, saying that earlier this year he had been caught in a storm while trying to transport the Aréte. What was supposed to be delay of a few hours turned into a whole day, and Bayview Bed & Breakfast gave Mr. Warner and his crew a room and fresh-baked cookies in the morning.

Mr. Warner also said to expect more competition at this year’s Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race from Port Huron. Earth Voyager, owned by his longtime friends Ryan and Todd Howe, has proven to be Aréte’s top rival. Mr. Warner says he and his crew are ready for the challenge.

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