Technology could bring as many as five million online viewers to the start of the 87th annual Port Huron-to-Mackinac Island boat race, sponsored this year by Bell’s Brewery.

The race, originated by Port Huron’s Bayview Yacht Club, starts in Port Huron on Saturday, July 23 and ends on Mackinac Island. Bell’s is also the sponsor of Global Positioning System tracking of the fleet and the first-ever complete live Webcast of the class starts. 

Some 220 sailboats ranging in size from 27 feet to 86 feet have registered to participate in the race, sailing on two separate courses. For the first time, all class starts will be broadcast live with streaming video over the Internet. Also, race organizers are consolidating the class starts from 16 last year to 10 this year.

“We think the larger class starts will make for a more exciting start to the race,” said 2011 Race Chairman Charlie Elmer. “It will also shorten up the start that normally takes place every 15 minutes for each class. We think this is a perfect fit for the Webcast and everyone in the world — for the first time — will be able to actually see the starts in this historic race and that is very exciting news.”

Elmer noted that while some 2,500 sailors take part in the annual regatta with an estimated 100,000 sailing fans and families attending the festive start in Port Huron, only a few people on authorized boats actually get to see the race start because it takes place in a restricted area about three miles from the Blue Water Bridge and a mile from shore.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase this historic race and the beauty of Michigan to racing sailing fans here and around the world,” said Commodore John Burke. “We typically draw sailors from 22 states and six nations and for the world to be able to watch the starts and then track the boats – well we think it is pretty spectacular.”

The 2010 Bayview Mackinac Race GPS tracking yielded 4.4 million page views over the three race days.

For the third time, sailing fans in Michigan and around the world will be able to monitor the historic race via the Bell’s and Bayview web sites as GPS tracking devices will be placed on all participating race boats. In addition, the professional sports teams in Detroit — The Lions, Pistons, Tigers and Red Wings — will each adopt a boat at random and their fan base will be able to track the boats progress to Mackinac.

“This race is iconic to the State of Michigan and one of its greatest traditions and we at Bell’s Brewery are thrilled to be a part of this phenomenal event,” said Larry J. Bell, president and Founder of Comstock-based Bell’s Brewery Inc. Bell is Michigan’s largest brewery, producing about 170,000 barrels of beer each year and distributing its products to 18 states. Its best-known products include a summer wheat ale called Oberon and other premium and specialty brands. Bell’s has been a Bayview Mackinac Race sponsor since 2009.

“This race is unique to the Midwest and is the longest continuously run freshwater race in the world,” Bell said. “It features sailing in the Great Lakes and showcases the natural beauty and fresh water resources that are unique to Michigan. We welcome sail boats and racing teams from Chicago and around the world for this grand event that marks the height of summer in Michigan.”

Added Commodore Burke: “Many sailors here and throughout the country are familiar with Bell’s Beer and their brands are becoming as iconic as this race. We welcome the Bell’s team support of this race and look forward to a fantastic year.”

And race chairman Elmer added that “The Bayview Yacht Club web site,, generally draws a million page views for the race; up to 5 million page views are expected to hit the site where the GPS tracking link for the 2011 race will be located.”

From its traditional start in Lake Huron the sailboats will head due north on two separate courses. The shorter course is called the Shore Course and it runs 204 nautical miles along the Michigan shoreline before heading west to Mackinac Island Bell’s Beer Finish line. The longer course is well known to sailors as the Cove Island Course, and it is preferred by captains seeking the open water challenge of its 254 nautical miles (approximately 300 statute miles) to Mackinac crossing into Canadian waters.

The 2011 Bayview to Mackinac Yacht Race will held on Saturday July 23. Bayview Yacht Club, founded in 1915, is widely regarded as the premier sailing club in Michigan and the Midwest. It has been hosting the Bayview Mackinac Race since 1925. The private club is located on the Detroit River near the mouth of Lake St. Clair and has more than 1,000 members. For more information:

Bell’s Brewery celebrated its 25th anniversary in Michigan last September. At that event Larry Bell announced a $52 million investment over the next five years. More at


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