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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.