This is the fourth in a series profiling the crew of Shape leading up to and through the Port Huron-to-Mackinac Island sailboat race.
When asked Wednesday why Shape has had so much success in the Port Huron-to-Mackinac Island sailboat race, Win Cooper had a three-part response.
“One, is that the boat is properly prepared, which Shape is,” said the elder of the two Win Coopers on the boat. “(Co-owners Chris Benedict and Win Cooper III) do a great job of getting it ready. Second thing is crew, and we’ve all been sailing together for a long time. We know what everyone is thinking.
“The last one is luck. Any sailor will tell you that it’s better to be lucky than smart. If you make the guess and you guess wrong as to what the wins are going to do, then you’re done. If you guess right, then you’re lucky and you do well.”
As Cooper mentioned, Shape is good in the first two, and will hope for more of the third Saturday when it takes off in the race. The Port Huron Yacht Club boat will compete in Class N Racing on the Shore Course. It’s the defending champion in both its class — Class N is a new name for Level 126 — and on the Shore Course.
The Coopers and Benedict are joined on the crew by Cam Benedict, Steve Bradley, Richard Birdsall, Ed Ely and Dale McNabb.
“All of the young guys were much more excited about (winning the overall) than I was,” Cooper said. “It was just a fortunate event. Everybody enjoyed it, but at my age, I just don’t get as excited as they do.”
Cooper is 79 and started sailing in the race in the 1970s. He said he’s not sure how many Mackinacs he sailed in, because, “It was never important for me to keep track of it.”
While he’s not sure of the number he’s raced in, he’s certainly had plenty of success. On top of the four class victories aboard Shape, he also won six times on his old boat, Wander. He owned Wander before originally going in on Shape in 2001 with his son and Chris Benedict.
“With Wander, we won six times, but it was getting a little tired because I was the third owner of it,” Cooper said. “We just thought that maybe it was time to get a little bigger, faster boat.”
Over the years, Cooper has seen a lot change in the race, especially when it comes to technology.
“When I started racing up the lake, we didn’t have anything except a compass,” Cooper said. “Then we got radio direction finders, the next thing was LORAN, and then GPS and now Yellowbrick. It’s changed significantly.
“The only reason I say that it’s still skill is in figuring out what you’re doing and making the boat go the right way. But there’s a whole lot more information now than there ever was.”
Cooper has also had a chance to watch his son grow up on the water.
“It’s been a delight,” he said. “It’s been fun to watch him grow and get better and better every year.”