The Lake Effect
The Lake Effect
Every year, hundreds of boats and htousands of sailors take on the Bacardi Mackinac Race. We brushed the salt off our seaboots and went to find out what we'd been missing. From our November/December 2006 issue.
As we approach the Straits under a small headsail and full main, and with everyone on the rail hiking, we begin to see more and more boats, including ones sailing the 204-mile Shore Course. We all tight reach our way past Bois Blanc Island, and as we round a small point, we can see the bluffs on Mackinac Island and the lighthouse that marks its southern end. The sky is clear, the water an impossibly beautiful blue, and Mackinac's pleasures await us.
We finish just shy of 9 a.m. and head for docks already packed with boats. When we tie up on the outside of a five-boat raft, next to the C&C 41 Titan, we're in second. By the time we have our first beer, we're in third, and then fourth, as smaller boats in our class rumble in. By the time I check into my hotel and take a shower, we've dropped to sixth in our nine-boat IRC E class, and we stay there.
The disappointment of our finish fades by the time our crew rendezvous at the Pink Pony. It seems as if every sailor in the fleet is there, and the scene is a chaotic mishmash of shouting, bar karate, tall tales, and spilled beer. The Titan crew, which was cautiously optimistic that morning, has confirmed its class win, and swarms the bar for a high-decibel celebration. It's the team's first win in a decades-long chase for silver.
"We started hearing boats calling in, and the first one was Epic," says Dan Aitken, one of Titan's three co-skippers, who marked his 29th Mac Race this year [his co-skippers Ernie Dumouchelle and Mike Schultes have sailed 33 and 32 Macs, respectively]. "They called in just ahead of us and we realized she'd started before us, and is a fast boat. We said 'Wow, we may have done OK.' The mood on the boat after we got in was kind of quiet, we were a little numb, but we had a good time that night. The sailors who win always say they're more lucky than good, and this year, I believe that."
The next morning I join the hundreds of people gathering on a huge, grassy field with bars dotted around its periphery. Most of the staff from Bayview YC has traveled to Mackinac to put on the awards ceremony, even executive bartender Jerome Adam, a living Bayview YC legend. Sailors who'd bayed at the moon the night before push strollers loaded with babies and sippy cups slowly through the crowd. "It's the hype and excitement," says Aitken, explaining the lure of the Bayview-Mac. "It's the beautiful fresh water, the excitement of competing, and the camaraderie. It's the high point of the summer."
Aitken also gives me the final bit of information that cements the idea in my mind that the Bayview Mac race is special. "When my daughter heard we'd won," he says, "she walked into her boss's office and said, 'My dad just won the Mackinac Race.' He said, 'Well, you'd better get going on up to the island.'"