‘All you can do is just ‘hang canvass?

Brandon Twp.- Sunrise and sunsets on Lake Huron’a moment that township resident Bryan Whitfield says are simply spectacular.
‘At night, miles out in Lake Huron there’s no ‘light? pollution from cities and the stars reach right to the horizon, it’s like you could reach out and touch them.?
Whitfield, 45, reflections came from the deck of the 33 foot sail boat ‘No Rebase,? (pronounced, ‘No re ba say,? Spanish for, ‘No Passing.?) while engaged in the 82nd edition of the 2006 Bacardi Bayview Mackinac Race.
The race from just north of the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron to Mackinac Island covers about 200 nautical miles and included 233 boats in 21 classes.
‘The race is very physically challenging. You suffer from sleep depravation plus the weather is always a factor. Then when the boat keels over to a 25 degree angle you’re crawling on the deck.?
Whitfield, a Caro native, was introduced to sailing at 8-years-old near Caseville in Saginaw Bay and has since stayed with sport, owning his own sail boat, taking sailing classes and crewing in smaller races in the Great Lakes.
But, now Whitfield was crewing on his first Mackinac race’a demanding 40 hours that’s unique due to the distance and unpredictably of the lake and weather.
‘I was on the ‘D-list?, said Whitfield. ‘I started crewing on the No Rebase and filling in with the team on Thursday nights and occasionally on Saturdays at Bayview Yatch Club. When they called me to join full time I jumped at it.?
Whitefield joined crew members Joe Smyk (Ypsilanti), Mike Varsava (Tecumseh, Ontario), Linda Johnson, (Grosse Point Farms) and Bruce Richardson (Royal Oak). The Rebase skipper is Ralph Richards (Troy).
‘You don’t get off the boat, you can’t stop when you’re actively racing,? said Whitfield. ‘It’s hard work, from trimming the sails, to navigating, to keeping watch around the clock, there’s only six people to run the boat. During the daytime the winds are typically stronger and there’s always lots to do.?
Working in three hour shifts of two crew members, the racers attempt to traverse the district as fast as possible.
Mackinac racers typically follow one of two courses; the Shore Course, which follows a few miles from the eastern Michigan Shoreline, 204 nautical miles or the Southhampton Course, 253 nautical miles, crosses Lake Huron toward Southhampton Ontario then back west to Mackinac.
The smaller boats’like No Rebase, a Tartan 10’follow the shore course with the larger vessels opting for more open water and the greater distance.
‘Eight of times out of 10 times the shore course, which stays about 3 to 20 miles from the Michigan shore will be the fastest,? said Whitfield. ‘Not this year.?
No Rebase owner and skipper Ralph Richards, 58, a Troy resident in his ninth Mackinac race with No Rebase, said selecting the most efficient route is key in this race.
‘Both courses had unique sailing conditions,? said Richards.
‘The Southhampton course has heavier seas and stronger winds but it’s about 50 miles longer.?
‘When you’re racing you’re always trying to push your boat, there’s an amazing thrill with a great crew and you’re going as fast as possible. It can be a challenge to be properly prepared for such a long race.?
‘This year was a fast race’we were leading the race, or so we thought, we never saw the other boats pass us, it happened sometime in the night.?
No Rebase hit some ‘holes,? or spots in the lake where there’s no wind, or doldrums while other boats had more consistent winds.
‘All you can do is just, ‘hang canvass,?? said Whitfield. ‘Weather is a big variable, racers pay meteorologists big bucks to predict. But it’s rather complex, it’s a combination of on shore and off shore weather events, it’s a big deal races are won and lost due to forecasts.?
‘Just hope that you’ll be on the wind line, we had some good winds. We had one time we were at 10 ? knots or about 13 mph.?
‘We finished sixth out of 14 boats but second place at the half way point near Thunder Bay, considered the half way point.?
The trip was not without incident.
Prior to an electrical storm and just a few miles outside of Saginaw Bay the Rebase started ‘humming? and then the instruments went dead, said Whitfield.
‘We called it the Saginaw Bay Triangle,? laughed Whitfield.