Bayview Mackinac: Standardized Data, More Competitive Racing

The ORR is America’s Choice among VPP rating rules and that includes the 95-year-old summer classic on Lake Huron.By John Burnham

Members of Bayview Yacht Club and other Great Lakes clubs have been racing from Port Huron to Mackinac Island since 1925. The Bayview Mackinac Race is an institution in the region, ranking as a pilgrimage for racing sailors, many of whom are proud members of the Old Goats Society, a distinction reserved for sailors who have completed the race 25 times or more.

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At first the racecourse was almost always a straight shot, 235 statute miles up the eastern Michigan shoreline, but in the ‘70s, a 290-mile, two-legged course was introduced, sending the fleet across the lake to the Canadian shore before turning northwest towards Mackinac Island. There were variations on the two themes over the years, but in the early ‘90s, Bayview decided to use both courses, with the smaller, slower boats generally assigned to the Shore Course.

The race has used many different rating rules to handicap its fleets, ranging from the Universal Rule, NAYRU, and CCA, to the IOR, IMS, IRC, and PHRF. In 2016, the Bayview Yacht Club Mackinac Race Authority selected the ORR rule for use by the larger boats on the Cove Island Course and, in 2017, chose ORR-Ez for the Shore Course. ORR requires boat and sail measurements by an independent measurer, with certificates issued by US Sailing, while ORR-Ez uses owner-supplied data and therefore costs less to obtain a certificate.

The chairman of the 2020 Bayview Mackinac Race, Chris Clark, says, “We use ORR for the Cove Island Course, which has the higher-performance boats sailed by people who are more likely to work to increase the performance of their boats. We believe ORR fits that model very well. For example, there was always optimization occurring  between some of the Santa Cruz 70s—all with different rigs, keels and rudders—and ORR provided stability for that game.

“We use ORR-Ez on the shorter course,” Clark says, “and we put a ‘speed bump’ in, so if your boat rates slower, you sail the short course and if it’s faster, you sail the Cove Island course.”

Clark says for the Shore Course, the organizers are generally trying to attract those who want to do the race in boats like Catalina 30s, S2s, or Nonsuch 30s. These owners aren’t likely to spend lots of time and money optimizing and reconfiguring their boats.

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