Larry Bell was born and raised in Chicago, and while he still maintains a presence there (and is a diehard Cubs fan), he has an obvious sweet spot in his heart for Pure Michigan.
Considered the patriarch of today’s Michigan craft beer world, Larry launched The Kalamazoo Brewing Company in 1983, which was incorporated as Bell’s Brewery in 2006. Now, the largest brewery in the state (and #8 craft brewery in the country) produces a vast portfolio of beers including its flagship summer beer, Oberon (5.8% abv)—a wheat ale often served with a wedge of orange on the rim of the glass.
That signature beer has become synonymous with the Bell’s Bayview to Mackinac Yacht Race, which took place July 18-20 between Port Huron and Mackinac Island, along the waters of Lake Huron. This year’s race was the 91st annual such event, which was first held in 1925 when the Port Huron Yacht Club and Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit teamed up in what is recognized as one of the longest fresh-water races in the world.
An historical marker commemorating the race was unveiled in Port Huron on Friday afternoon, along the riverfront near the yacht club. A duplicate marker will be placed at Bayview, which this year celebrates its Centennial.
“This race is truly Michigan—it is a great celebration of Great Lakes tourism,” says Larry. “We spent two years as the beer sponsor. Then the opportunity came up five years ago to become the title sponsor.”
The Bell’s brand is prominent in all aspects of the race—from the logoed race stickers on every boat, to banners hanging at bars around both Port Huron and Mackinac Island, to hats provided for every crew member on every sail team (this year, 237 boats participated), to t-shirts worn by bartenders and polo shirts worn by race volunteers.
Yet, for Larry it goes beyond the branding of Bell’s Brewery. It fuels a personal passion for the sport. As title sponsor, Larry acquires the unique opportunity to crew on one of the A Class boats during the race. He was one of 13 on Details, owned and skippered by Lance Smotherman of Harrison Township (Macomb County).
“I’ve been able to do this four out of the past five years,” he says. Admittedly, he has no professional sailing experience, but is honored to be an active part in such a significant historical race. “It’s exhilarating. It’s a special thing to be out on the water.”
Details is a Santa Cruz 70 manufactured in 1985. With a white hull and white spinnaker (USA 50045), she measures 68 feet in length with a 15 foot beam. Racing in the A Class, Details took first in class in 2010, 2011 and 2013.
This year, Details came in 10th (out of 16) after completing the 259-nautical-mile Cove Island Course in a corrected time of 43:54:41* (corrected time is calculated based on actual time and handicap; Details actual time was 32:45:53). The race began Saturday in Port Huron, with the A Class taking off just after 1:30pm; Details crossed the finish line just after 10:30pm on Sunday.
For complete 2015 race results: http://www.bycmack.com/results_details.cfm.