Doing the Offshore Double

Published on June 6th, 2016


Christopher VanTol

Detroit, MI (June 6, 2016) – When Bayview Yacht Club’s Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race begins July 16, Christopher VanTol of Detroit will have his family’s 35.5’ C&C 35 MK II Eliminator on the start line, hopefully without any leftover bottles of Gosling’s Rum. That’s because Eliminator will have already done the 635 nm biennial Newport Bermuda Race in June.

In VanTol’s opinion, the Bayview Mackinac Race is every bit the challenge as he’ll see in the Bermuda Race, which he sailed in 2014.

“Thunderstorms can pop up unexpectedly off the Lake Huron shore, and the waves are stacked closer together. It can be more difficult than sailing out on the ocean, where the waves are so spread out. Also, in the Newport Bermuda Race, once you’re past the Gulf Stream, the next several days of sailing are in 78-degree water, and it’s lovely out, nice and warm; if you hit tropical storms, they typically give you lots of rain and no wind.

“In comparison, in the Bayview Mackinac Race you are sailing on water that doesn’t get out of the 50s to 6os. There’s a lot more that’s thrown at you, and the weather changes so much faster. I think we did 15 sail changes over five days of sailing in the Newport Bermuda Race; on the Shore Course last year we did over 30 sail changes in two days!”

The Shore Course, at 204nm, is the shorter of two courses, with the Cove Island course measuring 259 nm.

bayview mac course

Overview and close-up of the Cove Island and Shore Course for the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race.

“If you paint it with a broad brush,” said VanTol, “nearly half of the current 227 entries are signed up on the Shore Course. They are PHRF boats between 26 and 40 feet, so right there that’s the bulk of the fleet we want to sail against; we want to stick with our kind, especially in speed.” (Typically larger, faster boats and multihulls sail under ORR on the longer course.)

VanTol’s father Paul VanTol and his friend Bruce VandeVusse (both Detroit) own Eliminator (built in 1974), having bought it when Christopher VanTol was just two years old.

“Since 2014, we’ve totally refurbished it (deck, hull and bottom redone, rig redone, new electronics and new sails) before we were crazy enough to put it in the 2014 Newport Bermuda Race, so while it’s a very old boat it looks pretty new,” said Christopher VanTol, who explained that his father and VandeVusse will count this year’s 92nd edition of the Bayview Mackinac as their 31st to compete on Eliminator.

“They (Paul and Bruce) don’t like bragging, but the boat has won its class 13 times over the course of its career in the Bayview Mackinac Race – the most by any one vessel in the history of the race – and has two division overall wins.”

Paul and Bruce will sit out the Newport Bermuda Race, with VanTol’s eight-person crew made up of friends in their mid-30s from the Detroit area. “We grew up sailing against each other on Lake St. Clair, and we’ve remained in contact through the years. Somehow we threw this crew together in 2014, and we’ve added a few more this year.”

In the 2014 Newport Bermuda Race, Eliminator, which this year will be sponsored by TimeSquare Capital Management, finished seventh in class and 14th overall out of a fleet of 164 and won the inaugural Newport Bermuda Race Regional Prize for best performance by a Great Lakes boat.

“Just with the paper work and logistics, it was a huge accomplishment to get on the starting line in 2014,” remarked VanTol. “Now I know what the process is and what the timeline has to be for getting things done, so I don’t feel as stressed this time. With the team coming in from all over, the safety requirements being so stringent, etc., we have to start six months before the event instead of a couple of weeks before the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race. I don’t want to say we can prepare for Bayview in our sleep, but our boat is at Bayview Yacht Club, so herding the cats is easier, and it’s simple to motor up to Port Huron for the start.”

VanTol will sail with eight aboard Eliminator in the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race and looks forward to returning to the mix of family and friends that earned the team a class win against 18 others in class last year and an impressive second in division out of 100 boats on the Shore Course.

“The sport gets us all back together. Whether it’s Newport Bermuda or Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race, we’re a group of guys who know each other really well; it makes the experience of sailing, and hopefully winning, one of camaraderie and lots of fun!”

Race website:

Source: Media Pro Int, Scuttlebutt

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