PORT HURON (WWJ) – The race is on! More than 200 boats and 2,500 sailors set sail Saturday from Port Huron heading to Mackinac Island. It’s the 87th annual Bayview Mackinac race, drawing sailors into competition from around the world.

Race Promoter Bruce Babiarz said the first boat across the finish line in the Port Huron to Mackinac race is not necessarily the winner.

“All the boats are under a handicapping system, like you would have in golf. So, the first to arrive on the island may not necessarily be the first to win. It’s based on the size, measurement and the design of the boats. So, there’s a sophisticated handicapped system for each of the 15 classes of boats that will start this year,” Babiarz said.

Early Saturday morning winds were calm, but thunderstorms are in the forecast for the entire weekend. Babiarz said weather can play a big role in the race, especially if storms move in. (Get the forecast here)

“I think it will make for some exciting starts and with the storms coming across a fast race and we know everyone’s going to be focused on safety and arriving at Mackinac safely,” he said.

Former WWJ engineer Ray Templin echoed that statement, adding that race organizers are especially focused on safety after two crew members died last week when their boat flipped during a storm on Lake Michigan as part of the Chicago to Mackinac race.

“(They’re) making sure all the boats and all their crews have the safety gear, such as life harness, life jacket, the life-knife that is attached to the life jacket, also their beacons,” Templin said.

He will be taking part in his 13th race aboard a 37-foot sail boat named “Patriot” out of Harrison Township.

There’s much more than just sailboats and racing this weekend. Larry Bell, President of Bell’s Brewery – which is sponsoring the race, said the annual event does wonders for tourism in Michigan.

“This helps us to promote tourism up north and especially on Mackinac Island, which in the summertime is a very important piece of business for us. But also, we get to promote it in Port Huron,” Bell said.

The race sets sail Saturday in Southern Lake Huron, just north of the Blue Water Bridge, at 11:30 am.


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