Oxford resident ready to set sail

Waves crash over the sides of the Pirate and onto the crew at the race’s start in 2021.

 47th year in Port Huron to Mackinac race

By Don Rush

Jeff and Cathy Henderson are new to Oxford, having moved to the township from Independence Township this past April. They are not new sailing – as a matter of fact, the couple is getting ready for Jeff’s 47th year participating in the Bayview Mackinac Race (more commonly called the Port Huron to Mackinac Race).

The couple will man a 40-foot Beneteau sailboat christened Pirate for the 98th running of the longest, continually run, fresh water race in the world, slated to start Saturday, July 16.

I’m the captain,” Jeff said, then pointing to his wife. “She’s the skipper.”

Co-captain,” Cathy corrected. Both then laughed as they sat at their dining room table last week.

According to Jeff, 62, the Pirate will have a 10-person crew for the race, all but three are local to Southeast Michigan – the other three are coming from New Jersey, Virginia, and one from the country of Denmark, via the southern state of Georgia. The crew has sailed together.

This is my 47th race,” Jeff said. “After 25 races you’re considered an Old Goat. After 50 races you’re called a Grand Ram.”

He has won the race eight times and been to the “podium” (a second or third place finish) a “bazillion” times. This year, he said, there are 179 boats registered to race, “which is down from normal. Usually there’s around 230 sailing.” There are 16 boats racing in the Pirate’s class.

The race is divided into two separate courses – the short Shore Course is about 204 miles and the long, Cove Island Course which is over 290 nautical miles. “the Shore Course is more for cruising, or leisure boats,” he said. The Hendersons, their crew and the Pirate will compete in the Shore Course, which requires going out to a marker in Lake Huron, then tracking around back to Mackinac Island.

The race usually takes most of the fleet between 40 and 60 hours to finish.

Jeff, Cathy Henderson and former Detroit Lion Lomas Brown.

The Hendersons and crew were also one of four boats randomly selected by the Detroit Sportsmen Association to “race inside a race” where each boat represents one Detroit professional sports team – the Detroit Tigers, Pistons, Red Wings and Lions. The Pirate will be flying Detroit Lions colors during the “Pro Team Challenge.”

It’s kinda fun,” Jeff said. “We were selected two weeks ago. (Former Detroit Lions offensive lineman and current announcer) Lomas Brown drew our name.” Each person on the team was also given Lions ball caps and shirts to wear during the race.

According to Jeff, on race day all the boats will sail down the Black River in Port Huron, out to Lake Huron. Once the fleet is a few miles out from the Blue Water Bridge, boats will be released about 10 minutes apart to start racing.


After the Bayview Race, the Pirate will then participate in the Mackinac to Chicago Race.


Readers can track the Hendersons by going to the Bayview Yatch Club website, https://bycmack.com. Tracking starts July 15 at noon.


According to the Bayview website, seven more are boats racing. In Division 1 of the Cove Island Course are: Blitz, owned by Larry Soutar, of Oxford; Hat Trick, owned by Wes Wilcox of Ortonville; Bella Luna, owned by Ron Stephens of Davision; and Ohana, owned by Tog Hough, of Lake Orion. In Division 2 of the Shore Course are: Comfortably Numb, owned by Mark Miller of Lake Orion; Tir Na Nog, owned by Steven Sheppard of Grand Blanc; and Windhover, owned by Rick Nelson and Doug Lowe of Lakeville.

The Hendersons will captain this 40-foot Beneteau sailboat. Photos all courtesy of the Hendersons.

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