This is the eighth and final story in a series profiling the crew of Shape leading up to and through the Port Huron-to-Mackinac Island sailboat race.
Nothing is stopping Ed Ely from sailing in the Port Huron-to-Mackinac Island sailboat race.
Not a 1,000-mile move. Not a job. Nothing.
“Port Huron, this blue water, you can drink the water here,” Ely said. “This blue water is in my soul.”
Ely, a Port Huron native who now lives in Texas, began his 39th Mackinac race Saturday aboard the Port Huron Yacht Club’s Shape, which is owned by Chris Benedict and Win Cooper III. The boat was competing in Class N (Level 126) and looking for a three-peat in its division. The division hadn’t been decided as of press time, but the boat had spent most of the race in contention.
The crew — which has now sailed six straight races together — also includes Winfield Cooper, Cam Benedict, Rick Birdsall, Dale McNabb and Steve Bradley.
“Racing with those guys, they’re really good competitors, and I love being a part of that team,” Ely said. “They’re good team builders. They work and they never quit.”
Ely has been sailing with the elder Cooper for 50 years, as Cooper asked him to join a crew for a Port Huron-to-Alpena race in 1965.
“Win and I have been sailing and racing on half of the Western Hemisphere,” Ely said. “I owned (former Port Huron nightclub) Boardwalk and Park Place. In 1982, I went broke and went to Texas and started over. I managed to come here every year for the Mackinac race. I’ve been racing with him and that family for a long time.
“I sailed with them every Mackinac that they’ve raced. I think we sailed our first Mac (together) when Coop got the Wander in 1987 and we won. That was a great time. Coop and I have done some cruising. We delivered a boat from Florida to New York. We sailed that boat to Puerto Rico. We’ve had a lot of fun with sailing.”
Ely has also had a lot of success, winning 11 times, including this past year, when Shape won not only its class, but the overall title on the Shore Course.
It’s a boat that not only gets to the line quickly, but manages to have a lot of fun while doing it. Ely may always be returning because of his love for sailing and the area, but being a part of this crew certainly helps.
“Mackinac is such a fun time,” he said. “It’s like a big family reunion — your extended family. It’s just a lot of fun. I admire every one of them that I sail with. We’ve been together a long time, and I like working with them. They keep me honest and make me work hard.”
Contact Paul Costanzo at (810) 989-6251 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PaulCostanzo.