MACKINAC ISLAND – Shape has accomplished just about everything a boat its size can in the Port Huron-to-Mackinac Island sailboat race.
One thing it hadn’t was three-peat. Until Monday.
Shape crossed the finish line at Mackinac Island at 4:17 a.m. to claim a third straight title in its class. This year, it was Class N, but like recent years, it is made up entirely of boats that carry a PHRF rating of 126.
“This was a lot of work,” Chris Benedict, who co-owns the Santana 35 with Win Cooper III, said. “Just by chance, the last two years we were in the right place at the right time up the course. This time, I think we came from behind a half a dozen times and caught the competition and said, ‘Alright, we’re in the driver’s seat now.’
“Then we’d give it away. We caught them again, and gave it away. It was painful.”
Shape was one of eight local boats to finish in the top three in its class. Arete led the entire pack, as it was first to finish Sunday afternoon in a Cove Island elapsed time record of 23 hours, 12 minutes and 51 seconds. After handicaps were figured in, it finished second in Multihull, Division III and Racing Overall behind Triceratops.
Pamela and Bob Wall’s Chippewa (Class Q), William Vogan’s Major Detail (Class G), Bob Bert’s Liberty (Class I), Mark DenUyl’s Good Lookin’ (Class J) and Ryan Lefebvre’s White River (Class F Doublehanded) each finished second in their class, while Frank Kern’s Carinthia (Class C) finished third.
Shape actually passed Arete in the race, if only for a brief moment while the 60-footer owned by Marine City’s Rick Warner had to make a fix.
“All of the long course boats were in a parade just blowing right through Lakeport at the time (of the early-race squall), including that huge trimaran,” Benedict said. “That 60-footer passes us and they’ve got a ton of sail. We’re thinking they’re going capsize or break their rig or something. They’ve got these roller furling jibs, and they just wind them up real fast, and the sail is gone. They don’t have sails up anymore, so they just live it out.
The crew of Liberty visits with family and friends after their second place finish in their class Monday, July 20, 2015 during the Port Huron-to-Mackinac Island Sailboat Race.
“It’s mass confusion. We watch the J120’s spinnaker blow up from the micro burst. Then we passed the trimaran, true confirmation that we’re stud sailors.”
Benedict was joking, but he and Cooper have been joined by Winfield Cooper, Cam Benedict, Ed Ely, Steve Bradley, Dale McNabb and Rick Birdsall aboard Shape for each of the last six Mackinac races. It’s a crew that has seen quite a bit of success.
“We never stop,” Win Cooper III said. “Never, never, never stop. (Midnight to 4 a.m. is) when we’re paying attention, and we’re hoping other people are sleeping.”
For Pamela Wall, it was the first race on Chippewa without her husband Bob, who stepped away from the race this year. But it ended with a familiar result – Chippewa winning a pennant.
“I can’t tell you how many times I was thinking about going down and talking to Bob about something, and it was like, ‘Oh, he’s not here,’” Wall said. “It was different and weird not to have him out there. I’m looking forward to see him. He’s probably still sleeping.”
Chippewa finished at 5:51 a.m. Monday with an elapsed time of 42:01:25, nearly 50 minutes ahead of Flying Buffalo which won the class and the Shore Course Overall on corrected time.
Joining Wall on the crew was her son, Rob, who lives in Brooklyn, New York; Greg Cyrul of Crystal Lake, Illinois; Trevor Floyd of Fort Gratiot, Don Robinson of Fair Haven and Bradley Burda of Fort Gratiot.
“I blame it all on these guys,” Pamela Wall said when asked about the boat’s continued success. “Because they are just one incredible bunch of guys. They work so hard, they never give up. They’re always looking for a way to make the boat go faster. We don’t sleep very much.
“They don’t. I do. That’s because I’m the captain,” she added with a laugh. “It really does take a team to do something like this.”
Bert also had a crew familiar with the boat on Liberty, including three generations of his family, as he was joined by his son Eric, who lives in Holland, and granddaughter Kelsey, who lives in Kalamazoo. Also on the crew were Michael Gallagher of Berkley, Ryan Quinn of Port Huron, John Gallagher of Commerce Township, Frances May of Port Huron, Steve Kelly of Port Huron, Jill Henry of St. Clair, Jake Schott of Fort Gratiot and Dan Vialard of Canton.
“We had our typical Mackinac crew,” Bert said. “All the sons I never wanted were on the boat. We were just delighted with the crew. Nobody got sick. Nobody got hurt. It went good.”
Class I was close throughout, but Mostly Harmless was able to pull away later in the race to pick up the victory. It finished in 44:10:14, while Liberty came in at 44:47:58. The third-place boat, Brandilee, came in at 44:59:04.
“If you did the playback, you would see that this class was so tight with eight boats – eight of the 11 were so tight, you could literally see everybody,” Bob Bert said. “It was really tight at the Cove rounding. After that, we lost cell phone, so we lost track, then it got dark, of course.
“Mostly Harmless, they just did extremely well going upwind. Better than us. It’s our sister boat. They’re identical, with the exception they have a lead keel and we have an iron keel.”
Good Lookin’ finished in 45:01:11, less than 20 minutes behind Windshadow, which won Class J. Joining DenUyl on the crew were Kevin Irland of Grand Rapids, Bryson DenUyl of Marysville, John Anter of Port Huron, Mark Stevens of Jeddo, Ron Churchill of Kimball and Nolan Churchill of Kimball.
Major Detail finished in 44:33:08, less than 30 minutes behind Class G winner Mr. Bill’s Wild Ride. Vogan was joined on the crew of Major Detail by Nick Ruffing of Detroit, Michael Fraser of Bright’s Grove, Ontario; Christopher Ongena of Ann Arbor, C.J. Ruffing of Detroit, Ryan Mynsberge of Marysville, Dave Werner of Fort Gratiot, Thomas Font of Winnetka, Illinois; and John Font of Evanston, Illinois.
White River finished in 46:20:44, about 5 ½ hours behind class winner Utah. On corrected time, however, the difference closed to about 3 hours. Lefebvre is joined on the boat by Timbo Kozachuk.
Carinthia managed to finish third despite a rocky start to the race. The boat took off a start too early and had to be called back to the line. It regrouped, however, and finished in 41:25:38. Insanity Too won the class, followed by Hot Ticket.
Joining Kern on the crew were Colleen Flanagan of Pinckney, Fred Kreger of Grosse Pointe Park, Daniel Van Hove of Grosse Pointe Farms, Ed Kreise of Grosse Pointe Farms, Dave Lorenz of Harsens Island, Shayna Petit of Ann Arbor, Vincent Oosterbrugge of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin; Keith Rospond of DeWitt, Michael Henk of Fenton and Benjamin Sinder of Ann Arbor.
Contact Paul Costanzo at (810) 989-6251 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PaulCostanzo.