Andrew Jowett
DIRECTOR X PHOTOGRAPHER
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Documenting Areté's Record Setting Mackinac Race

To say I was nervous would be the understatement of the year. I was a wreck. Recently I was given the opportunity of a lifetime for a photojournalist and the pressure I had put on myself was becoming a huge weight. For two days before the Mackinac race I might have gotten 6 hours of sleep total, which is a problem when you're basically signing up for an exercise in sleep deprivation. 

Flashback two weeks prior and I had just gotten off the phone with Rick Warner, owner of Areté - a 60' trimaran - and he had just confirmed he would be able to make room for me aboard his boat for the Port Huron to Mackinac sailboat race. I was ecstatic. Areté was the top boat myself and the editors were after while brainstorming about this project. The Times Herald would send me onboard to document the race from start to finish, something that we couldn't remember had ever been done for the Port Huron race. Cue the nervousness.

My introduction to the boat and the crew started with a shakedown a few days prior to the race. A practice session on Lake Huron to shake the rust off and get everything in order for the upcoming 259 mile journey.

 Donny tends to the mast during the shakedown, days prior to the Mackinac Race.

Donny tends to the mast during the shakedown, days prior to the Mackinac Race.

The shakedown went well. Normal in all aspects. The boat was running good and the crew was working like a team. Two days later we would be leaving for Mackinac.

 Matt secures a line under the Blue Water Bridge heading out to the start of the Mackinac Race.

Matt secures a line under the Blue Water Bridge heading out to the start of the Mackinac Race.

To sum up a few things for the sake of this being a short readable post:

- I was more than nervous about a few things; getting the best content and tell the story the best I could and not screwing anything up for the crew and getting out of their way when need be.

- The crew I didn't want to screw anything up for was Rick, Donny, Matt, Jim, Pat, Mike, and Ron.

- The crew had a few goals in mind this year. The top one being to best their record they set last year for the Cove Island Course.

 Mike adjusts a sail at the start of the race.

Mike adjusts a sail at the start of the race.

Saturday finally came, the race started with decent wind, and we were off. It was a surreal experience from the get-go for me. The past few years I would shoot photos from a press boat and now I was actually on one heading to Mackinac Island.

The beginning of the race was fairly uneventful. We were fast, fast enough that we caught the racers that had earlier start times than us fairly quickly.

 Donny finds what he calls, the best spot in the house.

Donny finds what he calls, the best spot in the house.

The shoreline kept getting more distance and before I knew it we were without sight of any land. Which I have to admit, is a sobering feeling. Nothing around you but open water. We were cruising along. I can't remember exactly our speed but we reached about 14 knots that afternoon if I remember correctly. The sun began to set and nightfall set in, which is where I'll let the photos do the talking.

 Rick takes the helm as Matt watches the stern cruise away.

Rick takes the helm as Matt watches the stern cruise away.

 Matt takes over the helm on the port cockpit.

Matt takes over the helm on the port cockpit.

 Matt eyes the setting sun. (The reason Matt and Rick make it into more photos here is because they had first watch. The schedule went 3 on and 3 off with one person floating if help was needed.)

Matt eyes the setting sun. (The reason Matt and Rick make it into more photos here is because they had first watch. The schedule went 3 on and 3 off with one person floating if help was needed.)

 Crusing at 10.3 knots = 11.8 mph

Crusing at 10.3 knots = 11.8 mph

 Ron works down below.

Ron works down below.

 Rick settles in for his night shift.

Rick settles in for his night shift.

 Mike takes the helm.

Mike takes the helm.

 The mast underneath the Lake Huron stars.

The mast underneath the Lake Huron stars.

 Donny takes the morning shift.

Donny takes the morning shift.

Day light broke just after we rounded Cove Island. When we made the turn it was like we were shot right out of a cannon. We jumped to 15 knots and kept building. The rest of the stretch to Mackinac was a speed blur. The highest the boat reached was 27 knots. The final stretch came and went. The crew never lost focus even when approaching the island. This might feel like a very anti climactic end, and it kind of was. The crew had raced their fastest time on that course and left all the competition behind them. There was no photo finish. When we got close enough to get phone service Matt took out his phone and checked the boat tracking app for the race. Areté had a commanding lead. 

 The green boat at the tip of the mitten is Areté far in front of the pack.

The green boat at the tip of the mitten is Areté far in front of the pack.

The final stretch in brought some of our fastest speeds. Which is where my favorite photo of the race comes from. Donny had been sitting near the cockpit as spray kept jumping up from behind him as the bow dipped in and out of the water. This shot took me awhile to capture as after each spray no matter how big or small I had to wipe the lens clean with a microfiber cloth to prepare for the next one. Everything came together as Donny peaks over his shoulder and a big spray comes shooting up through the netting.

 Donny takes a face full of spray as a wave hits the bow and pushes water up through the netting.

Donny takes a face full of spray as a wave hits the bow and pushes water up through the netting.

With the island in sight it was all over but the cannon fire that accompanies the crossing of the finish line. Aerate crossed with a new record time of 21 hours 44 minutes an 58 seconds. Goal reached.