It's costly, gut-busting, and a long way to travel - all for the slim chance of winning a flag and having your name on a
trophy you don't get to keep.
But to sailors who've raced it, as well as those who have always wanted to, the siren call of the Bacardi Bayview Mackinac Race is hard to resist.
Take Beth and Jeff Eischen, who decided that after two tries, they'd had enough.
The first time, in 2004, their C&C 37 Baci came in last. Last year they finished ninth.
"We didn't plan to do the race this year," Beth said, "but Rick Pethoud asked us to do it and said he'd provide the crew."
"The boat has been equipped and we have an excellent crew. We'll see what we can do," she said.
Pethoud raced his own boat, Teacher's Pet, in the Mac for the past seven years, but sold it earlier this year. He and his son Jeff will crew aboard Baci, along with Ron and Chris Koch, Duane and Dar Burgoyne, Steve Attard and Bruce Stark.
About 240 boats ranging from 26 to 86 feet will compete in the Bayview Yacht Club classic.
The long jaunt starts in lower Lake Huron, a few miles north of the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, at 11:30 a.m Saturday and ends at a finish line at the southeastern tip of Mackinac Island.
Racing in four divisions and 21 classes, the fleet will sail on two courses - the 253-nautical-mile Southampton Course, which turns the NGS buoy about 99 miles northeast of the start, and the 204-nautical-mile Shore Course, which hugs the Michigan coastline.
Baci will compete on the long course in IRC Class D.
"In the past we've favored more the south side of the course" Beth said, "but Rick Pethoud likes to go north, so this time we'll go north."
When we spoke to Beth (by cell phone) yesterday morning, Baci was sailing near the mouth of the Detroit River, accompanied by two other Mackinac Race entries - Steve Lawson's Chizzler and Robert Gordenker's Time Machine. All three boats sail out of North Cape Yacht Club
This race will be Gordenker's 10th Mac and the eighth in his J35, Time Machine. He will race in the Level 35 Class, with results based on elapsed time.
Like the Eischens, he wasn't sure he was going to make the race this year.
"I had to put in long hours at work and didn't get the boat in the water until Memorial Day," he said. "Then there was the hassle of getting the IRC rating and the expense. It cost $500 to get the boat rated."
He sailed the boat alone to Detroit to get it weighed, part of the measurement requirement for the IRC certificate.
"Last year, we made a mistake and didn't bring a heavy air spinnaker," he said. "We blew our chute and ended up sailing nine hours under a jib and mainsail before the wind settled down enough to fly another spinnaker."
Since then Gordenker has beefed up Time Machine's sail inventory.
"We're really looking forward to the race," he said. "We've got good talent on the boat and the boat is ready. With decent weather and a few good windshifts, we should do well, but luck has a lot to do with it."
Steve Lawson is the new guy on the block He's never even crewed in the race, let alone helmed a boat in it.
"Actually, I got conned into it," he said. "Everyone told me there was nothing to it. They said, 'Don't worry, just enjoy it.'●"
So far, the enjoying part hasn't happened.
"Right now," he said, as he made his way up the river, "I'm stressing out trying to get all this stuff ready. I'm still working on it, even as we speak.''
Chizzler, a Morgan 45 with retractable keel, will race the Shore Course, in Cruising Class A.
"My crew is the old Flashdance crew from back in the '90s, when we were winning races," Lawson said, referring to Laszlo Goda's former boat.
Southampton Course competitors from the Toledo area include Kevin Lemonds' Say Uncle, of Grosse Ile Yacht Club, in IRC Class C; Chuck Cable's Time, from Sandusky Sailing Club and Sandusky Yacht Club, and Dick Synowiec, from Ford Yacht Club, in IRC Class F, and Matt Dubois and Roger Pollack's Racer-X, from GIYC, in Class G.
Ron Konczalski's 33-foot Camelot, of Grosse Ile Yacht Club, will race on the Shore Course in IRC Class J. Gary Hall's Moxie, of North Cape, and Bruce Geffen's Nice Pair, from Ann Arbor, will sail in the Open Class for multihulls.