Mackinac Boat Race Sets Record: 4.4 Million Web Hits

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More than 4.4 million visits were made by people tracking the 2010 Pure Michigan Bayview Mackinac Race sailboats via the World Wide Web, setting an all-time high for the race, officials said Wednesday.

“We set a record last year with nearly one million page views,” said George Zimmermann, vice president of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Travel Michigan. “This year’s level of activity just blows that away. It is truly astounding and shows how compelling and important this great race in Michigan waters is to the state and sailing fans around the world.”

Pure Michigan is the national advertising and promotion campaign run by the MEDC’s Travel Michigan Division and its advertising agency, McCann Worldwide. Pure Michigan also hosted the Global Positioning System tracking of each of the 206 boats in the 86th Bayview Mackinac Race that ended Tuesday morning.

The overall winner of the race was Natalie J with a corrected time of 33 hours, 26 minutes and 59 seconds. Natalie J is owned by Philip O’Niel of Bloomfield Hills. The last boat to finish — also known as the “Pickle Boat” — was “Trim.”

Complete race results can be found at www.byc.com.

Trim skipper Jim Leamon took the ignoble honor in stride.

“People are coming up and shaking my hand,” said Leamon, of Grosse Pointe Park.

Trim crossed the finish line at Mission Point at 7:11 a.m. Tuesday morning, finishing the 254-nautical mile Cove Island Course in a corrected time of 65 hours, 34 minutes and five seconds.

“This was a fantastic race with several hundred thousand people coming out to watch the race start in Port Huron and take part in the Blue Water Fest,” said Commodore Bruce J. Burton of the Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit, which founded and hosts the race. “To have four and a half million people watch our race on-line is a testament to the race and the passion people have for sailing and the Great Lakes.”

The dramatic increase in web exposure was attributed to pre-race publicity and increased social media activity. The Pure Michigan Facebook page alone has nearly 100,000 fans. The four Detroit professional sports teams each “adopted” a boat and their fan base may have also pushed the Web traffic, said Bruce Babiarz, head of marketing and sponsorships for the Bayview Mackinac Race.

The race started Saturday in Port Huron with 206 sailboats evenly split among two courses, the Shore Course and the longer Cove Island course, which is about 50 miles longer and extends into Canadian waters.

Shortly after the start a brief but powerful storm ripped across Lake Huron, dismasting a classic 1964 wood racing boat called “Yare,” owned by John Tipp. A second boat, “Phoenix,” was also forced to withdraw. No injuries were reported.

Some 4,000 people, including sailors, family friends and crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock, celebrated the successful race at the Bayview Mackinac Race Awards Party on Mackinac Island where class flags sponsored by Bell’s Brewery were given to the top three winners in each of the 20 racing classes.

The 80-foot Hong Kong-registered “Beau Geste” took the start and was first to arrive on Mackinac Island followed by the 86-foot “Windquest” of Ada, owned by Amway heirs Doug and Dick DeVos. Natalie J arrived about four hours after Windquest but was declared the overall winner based on the sailing handicap rating system. The Mackinac racing boats, ranging in size from 28 to 86 feet in length, were sailed by approximately 2,500 sailors and crew.

“It was a great race on many levels,” said Chairman Tom Burleson of Bayview Yacht Club. “It was a safe race and the winds this year favored many of the boats that sailed the shore course. We look forward to doing it again next year.”

“Beau Geste,” is registered out of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, and its owner Karl C. Kwok conducted numerous media interviews by phone, satellite phone and e-mail given the intensive media interest in a boat that sailed thousands of miles to compete in Lake Huron.

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.

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