PORT HURON, Mich. - Light and variable winds sent the 81st Bacardi Bayview Mackinac Race off on a slow uphill crawl to Mackinac Island.
The first of 21 classes was maneuvering to get the best spot on the starting line, about four miles north of the Blue Water Bridge, when the wind shut down and race officials announced that the scheduled 11:30 a.m. start would be delayed until the breeze came up.
The 271-boat fleet, plus hundreds of spectator boats, rocked and bobbed in slight chop and 90-degree temperatures for an hour until the race finally got under way.
After that, the sequence went smoothly, with classes starting every 10 minutes.
The J35/T35 class had a picture perfect start with Robert Gordenker's Time Machine of North Cape Yacht Club sailing well in the middle of the frontrunners.
Kevin Lemond's Say Uncle of Grosse Ile Yacht Club also had a strong start in IRC Class G. Lemonds tacked for clear air at the weather end and headed up the middle of the lake.
A little over half the entries are competing on the 253-mile Southhampton Course, which takes them around the NGS buoy about five miles off Southampton, Ont., before heading to the finish off the southeast tip of Mackinac Island.
Boats on the 204-mile Shore Course will follow the Michigan shoreline, passing Harbor Beach and Thunder Bay Island on the right on the way to the finish.
The first boats are expected to arrive at the island tonight or early Monday morning. Marcia Everingham, a former principal race officer, said the boats on the long course may find it difficult to keep moving as night comes on.
"The forecast is for pretty severe wind on the Shore Course. Its going to be pretty bumpy for them," she said. "Generally, for most sailors the real challenge is Sunday night," she said.
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