Bell's Beer Bayview Mackinac Race Eliminator Prepares for Shore Course and Newport Bermuda Race
Setting up for Shore Course Bragging Rights and Newport Bermuda Race
This year at Bayview Yacht Clubís Bellís Beer Bayview Mackinac Race, which starts July 16, Christopher VanTol of Detroit will take on the 204 nautical mile Shore Course aboard his familyís 35.5í C&C 35 MK II Eliminator, but not until after he competes in the biennial Newport Bermuda Race, at 635 nautical miles, with the same boat this June. The Shore Course is the shorter of two courses offered at the Bellís Beer event, and for VanTol, who already has 20 Bayview Mackinac Races under his sailing belt, it is where he knows Eliminator belongs.
"If you paint it with a broad brush," - said VanTol, "nearly half of the current 227 entries are signed up on the Shore Course. They are PHRF boats between 26 and 40 feet, so right there thatís the bulk of the fleet we want to sail against; we want to stick with our kind, especially in speed." (Typically larger Ė thus faster Ė boats and multihulls sail under ORR on the 259 nm Cove Island course.)
Christopher VanTol of Detroit will take on the 204 nautical mile Shore Course aboard his familyís 35.5í C&C 35 MK II Eliminator. Prior to that he competes in the 635 nm Newport Bermuda Race.
In VanTolís opinion, weather patterns and challenges on the Shore Course can be more intense than the Bermuda Race, which he sailed in 2014. ďThunderstorms can pop up unexpectedly off the Lake Huron shore, and the waves are stacked closer together. It can be more difficult than sailing out on the ocean, where the waves are so spread out. Also, in the Newport Bermuda Race, once youíre past the Gulf Stream, the next several days of sailing are in 78-degree water, and itís lovely out, nice and warm; if you hit tropical storms, they typically give you lots of rain and no wind. In comparison, going up the shore on the Shore Course, you are sailing on water that doesnít get out of the 50s to 6os. Thereís a lot more thatís thrown at you, and the weather changes so much faster. I think we did 15 sail changes over five days of sailing in the Newport Bermuda Race; on the Shore Course last year we did over 30 sail changes in two days!"
VanTolís father Paul VanTol and his friend Bruce VandeVusse (both Detroit) own Eliminator (built in 1974), having bought it when Christopher VanTol was just two years old. "Since 2014, we've totally refurbished it (deck, hull and bottom redone, rig redone, new electronics and new sails) before we were crazy enough to put it in the 2014 Newport Bermuda Race, so while itís a very old boat it looks pretty new," - said Christopher VanTol, who explained that his father and VandeVusse will count this yearís 92nd edition of the Bayview Mackinac as their 31st to compete on Eliminator but will not be aboard for the Newport Bermuda Race. (VanTolís younger brother also will sail the Bayview race but not Bermuda, and his older sister will meet the team on Mackinac Island when it arrives.)
"They (Paul and Bruce) donít like bragging, but the boat has won its class 13 times over the course of its career in the Bayview Mackinac Race Ė the most by any one vessel in the history of the race Ė and has two division overall wins."
VanTolís eight-person Newport Bermuda Race crew is made up of friends in their mid-30s from the Detroit area. "We grew up sailing against each other on Lake St. Clair, and weíve remained in contact through the years. Somehow we threw this crew together in 2014, and weíve added a few more this year." In the 2014 Newport Bermuda Race, Eliminator, which this year will be sponsored by TimeSquare Capital Management, finished seventh in class and 14th overall out of a fleet of 164 and won the inaugural Newport Bermuda Race Regional Prize for best performance by a Great Lakes boat.
"Just with the paper work and logistics, it was a huge accomplishment to get on the starting line in 2014. Now I know what the process is and what the timeline has to be for getting things done, so I donít feel as stressed this time. With the team coming in from all over, the safety requirements being so stringent, etc., we have to start six months before the event instead of a couple of weeks before the Bellís Beer Bayview Mackinac Race. I donít want to say we can prepare for Bayview in our sleep, but our boat is at Bayview Yacht Club, so herding the cats is easier, and itís simple to motor up to Port Huron for the start.
VanTol will sail with eight aboard Eliminator in the Bellís Beer Bayview Mackinac Race and looks forward to returning to the mix of family and friends that earned the team a class win against 18 others in class last year and an impressive second in division out of 100 boats on the Shore Course.
"The sport gets us all back together. Whether itís Newport Bermuda or Bellís Beer Bayview Mackinac Race, weíre a group of guys who know each other really well; it makes the experience of sailing, and hopefully winning, one of camaraderie and lots of fun!"
A Kinship with the Newport to Bermuda Race
Not only was the biennial Newport to Bermuda Race an inspiration for the very first Bayview Mackinac Race in 1925 but also it is supposedly the very reason for the Bayview Mac preceding the Chicago Mac in even-numbered years. As the story goes, it was the mid-1930s when a group of Bayview Yacht Club sailors wanted to participate in the Newport to Bermuda Race, but they didnít want to miss out on their own great distance races on the Great Lakes. Therefore, they struck a deal with Chicago Yacht Club that in even-numbered (Bermuda Race) years, Bayview Mac would go first, Chicago Mac second. In those days you didnít truck boats, so that would give sailors finishing up the Bermuda Race just enough time to sail their boats back from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes via the St. Lawrence River/Seaway. After passing through the series of man-made canals, locks and dams, they would first reach Lake Ontario, then Lake Erie and finally the southern end of Lake Huron where the Bayview Mac starts. And of course after completing the Bayview Mac at Mackinac Island, it was on to Lake Michigan to start the Chicago Mac.
(left) The Governor of Bermuda chats with Eliminator co-owners Bruce VandeVusse and Paul VanTol (blue shirt) along with navigator Michael Hoey (at right on dock). (right) Eliminator in the 2014 Newport Bermuda Race. Click photo to download in high resolution.
For the Bellís Beer Bayview Mackinac Race NOR, go to www.bycmack.com and click the "Documents/Forms" tab. To register, click here.
Joining Bellís Beer in sponsoring the 2015 Bellís Beer Bayview Mackinac Race is the Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island, Mich., Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, Aitken and Ormand Insurance, Sheplerís Mackinac Island Ferry, Titoís Handmade Vodka, Pentastar Aviation, and the Bayview Yacht Club Foundation.
More About Bayview Yacht Club
Bayview Yacht Club, founded in 1915, is widely regarded as the premier sailing club in Michigan and the Midwest. Located on the Detroit River near the mouth of Lake St. Clair, it has been hosting the Bayview Mackinac Race since 1925 and has more than 1,000 members. For more information: www.byc.com.