Chasing Wind & Glory

The 100th running of Bayview Mackinac Race has local sailors leading the way.

By Nick Lico/Photography by Martin Choneicki

In the 1979 song Sailing, Christoper Cross likens sailing to paradise, stating that “if the wind is right you can sail away, find tranquility.” On Saturday, July 20 of this year, more than 325 sailboats will hope that the wind is right, but tranquility will be extremely difficult to find, since they’ll be participating in the arduous 100th running of the Bayview Mackinac Race. It will start at approximately 10:30 a.m. and in the crews you’ll find some of Macomb’s own leading the way to Mackinac Island.

“Sailors, both seasoned veterans and newcomers alike, are gearing up to be part of this historic occasion. The race is not only a test of skill, but also a celebration of the enduring spirit of adventure and competition,” said Charlie Trost, 2024 Bayview Mackinac Race chair.

Among those participating in this annual race is Tim Prophit of St. Clair Shores. His 39-foot boat, Fast Tango, finished first overall in last year’s race with a time of 46 hours, 19 minutes and 46 seconds, beating the next competitor by 10 minutes.

“I like sailing because there are so many disciplines involved. A lot of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) knowledge involved. You have to have the right crew, make the right decisions, be aware of the weather. A lot that goes into the decision-making process,” Prophit said. The Fast Tango owner and skipper will be participating in his 42nd Port Huron to Mackinac race this year.

Also with a great deal of racing experience under his belt is John Demers. The St. Clair Shores resident finished first in his class last year and this year will mark his 25th Port Huron to Mackinac Island event.

“This race is a marathon, not a sprint. There’s nothing like sailing 230+ miles on a tumultuous and uncertain body of water. The weather can change quickly. You hope for the best weather conditions but have to be prepared for the worst,” Demers said.

An engineer by education and a watercolor artist by passion, Demers has also been asked to create a painting commemorating this year’s event. It will be auctioned off and those proceeds, along with the proceeds from the sale of limited print reproductions, will go toward perpetuating the race.

Yet another seasoned participant is Stephen Beskange, of Harrison Township. This year will mark his 17th race.

“I started sailing when I was 12, so it’s always been a part of my life. I participated in my first Port Huron to Mackinac race at 18,” Beskange said.

For the 100th race, all competitors will sail on the 1925 original course, used during the first Bayview to Mackinac race. The course covers 204 nautical miles (235 statute miles). From its traditional start in southern Lake Huron, the fleet will head north on one course along the Michigan shoreline before heading west, passing south of Bois Blanc Island, finishing west to east at the finish line between Round Island and Mackinac Island.

“The decision to return to the original course for the 100th race adds a unique historical dimension to an already prestigious event, promising an unforgettable experience for participants and fans alike,” Trost added.

With the race returning to its original course, there’s the additional element of unfamiliarity.

“No one has local knowledge of south of Bois Blanc Island since no one from the original race is alive today,” Prophit explained.

When asked what it’s like to be racing nonstop against hundreds of other boats, Beskange replied, “You don’t stop. You are taking the weather and competition into account. A lot of times, you are miles away from other boats and you don’t see anyone. You have to be self-sufficient to run your race.”

“This race is as Michigan as Chevrolet, Ford, Vernors, Motown and everything that is associated with our state. If you’re not a sailor and you’re not going to Mackinac Island, go to Port Huron on Thursday night. It’s a family-friendly event,” Prophit said.

“What feels like a local Michigan race has national and international appeal, pulling boats from a number of other states and Canada,” Beskange said.

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