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Published: Monday, 7/21/2003

Earth Voyager first one in


MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. - The Bacardi Bayview Mackinac Race turned into a race of the titans, with two of the largest contenders duking it out for line honors in an adrenaline-charged squeaker to the finish.

Ray Howe's Earth Voyager, the boat that set the multihull record in the Bayview Bacardi Mackinac Race in 2001, broke its own record by an hour and five minutes in an unexpected early finish yesterday.

The 60-foot trimaran arrived at Mackinac Island at 1:44.56 p.m. yesterday, after sailing the 253-mile Southampton course in 25:14.56.

Alchemy, a 77-foot turbosled that held the lead until the two boats rounded the NGS buoy, about five miles off Southampton, Ont., followed at 5:48.07 p.m., setting a record of her own. Her 27:28.07 elapsed time beat the eight-year record for monohulls set by Peter Thornton's Houla, a Great Lakes 70, by 3 hours and 4 minutes.

The race had a near-perfect start in Port Huron Saturday morning, with azure skies and fairly calm seas. Reaching in light northeasterly breezes, most of the 252-boat fleet headed for the Canadian shore.

Alchemy, a new high tech Andrews 77 with a mast that stretches 100 feet off the water charged up the course at speeds exceeding 16-18 knots, according to her co-skippers Mary and Richard Compton of Santa Barbara, Cal.

“It's a big boat and we knew it was capable of winning. We certainly wanted it to,'' Richard Compton said.

Alchemy won the line honors in the monohull fleet. However, the overall division and class trophies are awarded on the basis of corrected time (adjusted for handicaps), so the winners won't be known until the other boats have finished.

Alchemy overtook Earth Voyager in the first 10 minutes of the race and it took 100 miles for Earth Voyager to pass her.

“We led for a long time,'' Compton said, “but she caught up with us when we were rounding the mark.''

Although there were scattered showers and thunderstorms, boat speed appeared to be more of a factor in the race than the weather.

“A front passed us late last night and early this morning, but we didn't go storm chasing because there was no wind in them - a lot of rain, but no wind,'' Compton said.

Ray Howe's sons Ryan and Todd said conditions were lighter than in 2001, when Earth Voyager last sailed the race.

“This time, we didn't have to spend six hours battling to get up the Straits of Mackinac,'' Ryan said, “but it took us all day to catch up with Alchemy. We were really impressed with her speed.''

Earth Voyager missed last year's Mack because it was nearly destroyed in a freak crash with a runaway train. Ray Howe, a math teacher who cashed in all his savings to build the huge trimaran in the '90s, scrambled to rebuild her in time to enter.

He just made it and the boat was launched only two days before the start in Port Huron, Saturday.

Among North Cape Yacht Club boats, Dave Caracci's Hurricane, one of the first boats in performance handicap racing fleet class F to turn the Southhampton mark, rounded at 4:33 a.m. yesterday. Robert Gordenker's Time Machine rounded at 7:02 a.m.

The 2003 Mills Trophy winner, Jazzy, skippered by Jerry Frabutt of Grosse Ile, Mich., Yacht Club, rounded at 6:17 a.m.

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