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Mackinac-Manitoulin Yacht Race set for July 21-24
2004
by Margo Little

Sailboat racers are always looking for new adventures and opportunities to
test their seamanship. The newly launched Mackinac to Manitoulin Yacht Race is sure to challenge the skills of even the most seasoned sailor.

The fledgling race, slated for July 21-24, 2004, will be an international event attracting people who love the clean, clear waters of the north. And it will bring visitors to the North Channel, one of the top five sailing venues in the world.

The concept is the inaugural project of the newly formed Little Current Yacht Club (LCYC). On April 9 a group of boating enthusiasts in Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands decided to take the plunge into international waters.

The directors of the club took their cue from two existing races that have a long history of success. "We decided we would try to capitalize on the position of these two racing fleets on both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron," according to rear commodore, Bruce O'Hare.

The Bayview Yacht Club, founded in 1924, in Detroit sponsors the annual Port Huron to Mackinac race. Renowned as the largest freshwater sailing race in the United States, the event brings thousands of spectators to the shores of Lake Huron each July.

Sailing craft from 26 feet to 72 feet in length compete in various divisions as sailors strive to be the fastest in their class.

The Chicago Yacht Club is also a major player in international sailing competition. The 333 mile race from Chicago to Mackinac is billed as the world's longest freshwater race. Racers start 1.5 miles east of Chicago at Monroe Harbour and the finish line is the lighthouse on Round Island just off Mackinac Island, Michigan. The event, founded in 1898, takes 40 to 60 hours to complete.

"Our race will follow the Port Huron race," O'Hare reported. "The two existing races are two of the top ten races in all the world. These people live to race sailboats; their primary motivation is the sheer joy of sailing."

"We have lots of docking capacity in Little Current," O'Hare said. "But in the first year we will limit participation to 30 boats. And over the next five years we expect to grow the race to a size similar to the others."

The project, funded by the Lacloche-Manitoulin Business Assistance Corporation and FedNor, is expected to yield positive economic benefits for all of Manitoulin and the Northshore. "We will have great exposure in the mid-western United States and in Ontario," O'Hare adds. "There will be an opportunity to grow marine tourism and the impact will be felt in Killarney, Spanish, Spragge and other communities."

O'Hare, proprietor of Little Current's Anchor Inn, believes the race will serve as a positive connection between the United States and Canada. "There are only 100 miles between Manitoulin and Mackinac," he pointed out. "Up until now there hasn't been much interaction so this race is a great opportunity to show us co-operating on a mutually beneficial project."

LCYC Commodore Roy Eaton said there has never been a yacht club on Manitoulin before. He envisions substantial involvement by Island service clubs in the festivities of race week. "It's a chance for the average citizen to see some world class sailing and to see high calibre boats with the latest designs and high tech equipment," he noted.

In addition, he promises spectacular visual effects as the boats pass by. "There are often very close finishes in these races and it's always a very beautiful sight," he said.

The race starts Wednesday, July 21 at Mackinac Island, according to organizers. In leg one of the journey, the competitors enter the North Channel by means of False Detour channel and proceed to Gore Bay. They arrive Thursday, July 22.

Then on Friday, July 23, they carry on to Clapperton Island and eventually to the finish line in Little Current. A banquet and awards ceremony will be held Saturday evening.

Registration details can be found at www.lcyc.ca or e-mail at race@lcyc.ca



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