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Changes Promise an Enhanced Racing Experience

Significant changes have been made to the 91st 2015 Bell's Beer Bayview Mackinac Race in order to enhance the race experience, and by the looks of it, sailors are embracing them wholeheartedly.  With registration having opened a month earlier than last year, more than 85 teams have entered. The event, which last year accommodated 226 boats, starts Saturday, July 18 on Lake Huron and is hosted by Bayview Yacht Club, which notably celebrates its 100th Anniversary this year.

Last year’s Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race hosted 226 boats. (Photo credit Bayview Yacht Club/Martin Chumiecki)

“Not only are there 72 more boats signed up than at this time last year but also better than 20% of the fleet are first-time participants,” said Race Chairman Peter Wenzler. “The focus this year is on putting our best foot forward to have the highest-quality event during our Centennial; however, there are no gimmicks…the goal is simply to provide the best race, best parties and best awards.”

Wenzler added that sponsorship by Bell’s Beer Brewery has made it possible to keep the entry fee the same as last year ($14/foot) and the parties lively with awesome bands, sound systems, food and libations, but the changes start with the setting of a “speed limit” for participation on the Shore Course, the shorter of the event’s two courses, which follows the Michigan shoreline and covers 204 nautical miles (235 statute miles).

“The Shore Course is no longer an option for larger boats with a PHRF rating below 99 seconds per mile,” said Wenzler, adding that his committee analyzed elapsed times of boats competing on that course and the Cove Island Course, the longer offshore adventure covering 259 nautical miles (298 statute miles), wanting to find a way for the bulk of the fleet to finish together and in time for the awards party at Woodfill Park (owned by the Grand Hotel, the host and supporting sponsor on Mackinac Island) on the Tuesday following the start. “It was a happy accident that the number we settled on pretty much splits the fleet, as it currently stands, in half.”

Slower boats (rated above 99) have the option of sailing the Cove or the Shore course; however, Wenzler expects most of them to choose the latter.  “Placing a speed limit gets all the faster boats on the Cove Island Course and keeps the smaller boats near shore on the Shore Course, so the bulk of the fleet arrives throughout the day on Monday. They can then rest up, wash up, join their families and come to a great party on Tuesday.”

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Crowds of boats and people along the shores of Port Huron before the start of the 2014 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race.

(Photo credit Bayview Yacht Club/Martin Chumiecki) 

The prestigious J.L. Hudson Trophy, which previously was awarded to the overall winner on the course with the largest fleet, will now be reserved for the winner of the Cove Island Course. Another trophy – the Canadian Club Classic Trophy – will be elevated to serve as the overall award for the Shore Course. Awarded for many years to the overall best corrected time in PHRF, the Canadian Club Classic Trophy is adorned with the names of many of the most storied boats in the history of the race.

The minimum boat length for entry has been reduced from 27 feet to 24, which, Wenzler said, opens the door for many who have long been shut out.  “In conjunction with lowering the overall length requirement, we have revised safety requirements so that boats less than 30’ in length that don’t satisfy the extensive lifeline requirements may alternatively sail with the crew harnessed and tethered to the boat.  Already three Melges 24s and a Cal 25 have entered, so right off the bat, we’ve picked up four such boats.”

With all of these changes, Wenzler said he expects tighter racing in fewer and bigger classes, resulting in better competition. “The changes are about getting back to the kind of race Bayview wants to run and giving sailors the great experience we want them to have.”

For the NOR, go to www.bycmack.com and click the "Documents/Forms" tab. To register, visit www.bycmack.com.

Joining Bell’s Beer in sponsoring the 2015 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race is Grand Hotel-Mackinac Island Michigan, Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, Frankenmuth Insurance/Aiken Shores Insurance Agency, and Bayview Yacht Club Foundation. 

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