Detroit —Talk about making a comeback.
Bernida, the first boat to win the Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race in 1925, will sail this year’s 88th event starting July 14.
Bought last autumn by Grosse Pointe Park’s Al Declercq, the boat is a 32-foot R-class sloop with an open cockpit. There is no cabin for the crew. In terms of size, it’s significantly smaller than other boats in the field.
“It’s only 48 hours, who the heck cares?” said Declercq, who has entered two races this year with Bernida and won both. “It might be nice, it might be ugly, but when it’s rough out there, no boats are comfortable. We’ll just be a little less comfortable than the rest of them.”
Bernida was built approximately 92 years ago and won the 1927 Mackinac race, as well. It raced years later, but essentially was lost until a sailing enthusiast found it in Frankfort in 1995 in shabby condition.
Several owners later, Roman Barnwell of Mackinac Island restored it with the help of island residents.
Declercq, who owns sailmaker Doyle Detroit and has over 50,000 miles of racing experience, purchased the boat from Barnwell after that restoration.
“It was sailable but wasn’t race-ready,” Declercq said. “We had to make everything stronger and update a number of things and now we’ll go sail the race.”
Bernida will have to work a little harder this year, about six/tenths of a mile longer. The finish line is near Windermere Point rather than Mission Point.
A small minority in the field have said currents and lack of wind in the Windermere Point area could make for a slow finish.
“That’s part of sailboat racing,” race chairman Greg Thomas said. “We float for hours in this race. It might be there, it might be somewhere else.”
Mail (will not be published) (required)