Detroit’s Bayview Yacht Club on Wednesday hosted the preview for the 95th annual Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race, which sets sail July 20 with 220 boats and approximately 2,000 sailors taking part.
This year’s race will feature 38 first-time competitors including Whitehawk, the longest boat to ever take part in the Bayview race, measuring at 105 feet. From its traditional start in southern Lake Huron, the fleet will head north and split onto two courses.
The shore course covers 204 nautical miles and moves along the Michigan shoreline heading west toward Mackinac Island. The cove island course is 259 nautical miles and takes sailors through Canadian waters before heading west toward the finish line off of Windermere Point on Mackinac Island.
“We do it for many, many reasons: for the lessons it teaches us, for the enjoyment of sailing with friends, to instill self-reliance, to become part of a team, to enjoy the fresh waters of Michigan, and to enjoy each other’s company and to challenge ourselves against those of us who are, perhaps, better sailors or perhaps luckier sailors,” says Sandy Fullerton, commodore of the Bayview Yacht Club.
This year’s Blue Water Fest, which preceeds the race, will take place July 17-20, says Pauline Repp, mayor of Port Huron, where the race begins. The festival will begin July 17 with the Rotary Parade, and the days leading up to the start of the race will include fireworks, a carnival, live music, and more.
Bill Harrington, marketing director from Detroit Sports Media, and John Mason, announcer for the Detroit Pistons, led the boat drawing for the ProTeam Challenge. The challenge is a race-within-a-race among representatives from Detroit’s professional sports teams.
Lomas Brown, a former Lions offensive tackle and current color analyst, represented the Detroit Lions and drew boat Blackhawk; a former Pistons player and current NBA Radio analyst Rick Mahorn represented the Detroit Pistons and drew boat Peace; announcer Ken Kal represented the Detroit Red Wings and drew boat Stripes; and Dave Rozema, a former Detroit Tigers pitcher, represented the Tigers and drew boat Eliminator.
For the ninth consecutive year, Comstock-based Bell’s Brewery is the event’s title sponsor. The owner and founder of Bell’s Brewery, Larry Bell, has competed in seven of the Bayview Mackinac Races and has witnessed first-hand the passion both the owners and the crews have for competing.
“I love this race. I love what it means for Michigan history,” says Bell. “It’s an iconic piece of what happens in Michigan. It helps promote tourism here in Detroit, in Port Huron, in the Upper Peninsula, and on Mackinac Island. It helps celebrate the beautiful water that we have here in the state.”
In addition to Bell’s Beer, Michigan-based Luca Mariano Distillery, the official bourbon of the race, is another sponsor.
“I spend a lot of time with family up north and on Mackinac Island, so we have celebrated this race for years,” says Francessco S. Viola, owner of Luca Mariano, which is named after Viola’s son. “I am very excited that Luca Mariano’s Old Americana bourbon is the bourbon of choice that will be raised to cheer on the Bell’s Bayview Mackinac Race.”
Other sponsors include the Grand Hotel, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and Gill. Partners of the 2019 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race include Detroit Sports Media, Marx Layne and Co., and the Bayview Yacht Club Foundation.
Financial support from Bell’s and other community partners has made it possible for the race to give back to the community. For 2019, in addition to longtime partners, Set Sail for Autism and Alliance for the Great Lakes, the race welcomes Warrior Sailing as a community partner and competitor in the race. Warrior Sailing provides maritime education and outreach for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans.
An estimated 75,000 sailing fans and families will attend the festivities in Port Huron leading up to the Saturday start of the race.