Competitions with a Cause

Published on May 18th, 2017

Before the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race fleet takes aim this summer for the land of fudge, race organizers at Bayview Yacht Club (Detroit, MI) will be connecting with two organizations: Set Sail for Autism (SSA) and Alliance for the Great Lakes.

On June 15, 20 young autistic adults and their chaperones will board J/120s at Bayview Yacht Club and participate in a Thursday Night Race on the Detroit River.

“Sailing is a unique chance for individuals with autism to perform difficult tasks and adapt to the ever-changing environment on the water,” said SSA’s Tom Riopelle, who added that special awards will be presented to top finishers and the race will be added to a full schedule of events that integrate with the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race to raise awareness of autism within the sailing community.

SSA sailor Michael Sanchirio

Michael Sanchirio, one of SSA’s sailors who now races on a regular basis, has been invited to race as part of Autism on the Water in Scotland and has become a mentor to other sailors.

“Having the experience of sailing has been something that has changed my life exponentially,” he said. “I never realized how much the experience would influence so many other aspects of my life. It has not only become a true passion of mine, it has also led me to several job opportunities. I see similar futures for a number of the sailors that have joined the program since me.”

On behalf of the 2017 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race organizers and competitors, a donation of $1,500 will be presented to SSA.

Race Chair Tricia Smotherman says an effort also is underway to recruit boat owners to provide the opportunity for young autistic adults and their chaperones to help deliver boats back to Port Huron from Mackinac Island after the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race

“We’ve been supporting SSA for five years,” said Smotherman. “It’s important for sailors to give back, and we see this as a great opportunity to share the sailing experience in a managed environment. We’re also delighted to add our support of Alliance for the Great Lakes this year. This is a new partnership for us.”

Smotherman explained that while there are many groups focused on the oceans, such as Sailors for the Sea, her group wanted to focus similar efforts on the Great Lakes. “After doing research and consulting with Bell’s Brewery President and Founder Larry Bell, who is acutely aware of fresh water issues, we decided to support the Alliance for the Great Lakes.”

Headquartered in Chicago, the Alliance for the Great Lakes has staff located across the Great Lakes region and in offices in Muskegon and Detroit, Michigan. The organization supports tens of thousands of people to protect the lakes across the region; partners with local leaders to restore land and protect clean water for communities; and advocates for policies that restore the lakes for all and protect them from lasting harm.

Smotherman said $1,500 also will be donate to Alliance for the Great Lakes on behalf of the 2017 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race.

The event’s 93rd edition starts this July 22, with current registration numbers for the 2017 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race showing 184 boats – 103 for the 259 nautical-mile Cove Island course and 81 for the shorter 204 nm Shore course.

Race website:

bayview mac course

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

Source: MPI

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