This is the fifth in a series profiling the crew of Shape leading up to and through the Port Huron-to-Mackinac Island sailboat race.
Each time Steve Bradley sails in the Port Huron-to-Mackinac Island sailboat race, he’s living a dream.
“I grew up here on Desmond Beach,” said Bradley, a Port Huron Northern graduate who now lives in Hale. “We’ve always had a family tradition here to gather at B Street for the start of Mackinac. As a kid, I used to watch the boat Heritage race up the shore. I always dreamed about being on one of those boats and doing the Mackinac race.”
Bradley, who has sailed in nearly 30 Mackinac races – he wasn’t sure of the actual number – will join Shape for the 14th straight year as the race begins Saturday morning in lower Lake Huron.
Shape – owned by Chris Benedict and Win Cooper III – will sail in Class N on the Shore Course. The boat was the champion a year ago in Level 126 – the same one-design class that makes up Class N this year – and on the Shore Course.
“(Repeating) is a thought that’s out there,” Bradley said. “But you’re racing against, like last year, we were racing against 130-some boats, so the chances of winning overall aren’t great. You have to win your fleet first, then let the chips fall where they may. It would be excited to win again, but that’s not our main focus.”
Winning overall a year ago was something Bradley and the crew hadn’t really considered before the race. Even after being informed at the docks that they were projected as the winner, there was an element of disbelief.
“When I looked at the Yellowbrick tracker up by Alpena, I thought the first-place boat was a different boat,” Bradley said. “I had to re-look at it and I realized it was us.”
Like his crewmates have said, Bradley contributes Shape’s success to a combination of the condition the boat is kept in, the hard work the crew puts in, and some luck.
“We have a lot of fun,” he said. “But we race hard.”
Joining Bradley, Benedict and Cooper on the boat will be Winfield Cooper, Dale McNabb, Cam Benedict, Richard Birdsall and Ed Ely. The crew has all been together since Birdsall joined in 2010, the crew has remained the same every year.
“It’s a privilege and an honor to race on a boat with a bunch of great sailors,” Bradley said. “We have a lot of years of experience on the boat. It’s a privilege and an honor to race on a boat like that has had that success.”
Contact Paul Costanzo at (810) 989-6251 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PaulCostanzo.