MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (PORT HURON TIMES HERALD) - Doug DeVos and the crew of Windquest experienced most of the weather conditions one could possibly see on an overnight sailboat race.
They also experienced the thrill of being the first boat in the Mackinac Race to reach the island.
Windquest crossed the finish line 1 second before 5:27 p.m. on Sunday, finishing the race in 27 hours, 46 minutes and 59 seconds, about 37 minutes ahead of Il Mostro, which was second to cross the line.
"Oh my gosh, everything happened," said DeVos, who co-owns the boat with Dick DeVos and sails it out of the Macatawa Bay Yacht Club. "It's one of those races where we saw just about every condition. We put every sail we brought up.
"The conditions were changing all the time. It went from sunny and really pretty downwind sailing to heavy air upwind, to drifting conditions with no wind whatsoever, absolute downpours of rain, fog where you could barely see the bow of the boat, sunny, beautiful conditions like this, so it was a race that had everything, that's for sure."
Windquest is not likely to finish first in Division I on corrected time, as its handicap allows the rest of the boats on the Cove Island Course to catch it. More than 200 boats were still on the course as of press time, and the winners had not yet been crowned. That included all of the boats from the Port Huron Yacht Club.
Getting there first, however, made for a lot of happy faces among the 16-man crew of Windquest. It led for nearly the entire race — known officially as the Bell's Beer Bayview Mackinac Race — although Il Mostro, which was first to the island a year ago, kept things close.
"You track everybody as best you can as you're going along until the sun goes down, DeVos said. "Then coming into Cove Island, we lost track of (Il Mostro). We were pretty well ahead, we thought we sailed pretty well going into Cove Island.
"As we were going around (the buoy at Cove Island), they were right behind us. We didn't see them, it was so foggy. Coming out of it, we were right next to each other, then we kind of diverted and I think crossed our bow, so they had passed us then it was foggy and we never saw them until they were all clear here (at the island)."
The race slowed down after the boats made the turn at Cove Island, as the winds were coming into them instead of pushing them from behind.
"Every single time when you would look to say, 'What's the bearing to the finish?' you would say whatever it said and that would be exactly where the wind was coming from," DeVos said. "You went a little north, the wind would shift to the south. You went a little south, the wind would shift to the north, exactly where you were trying to come from.
"It did shift a little bit in between there. That's just kind of the way it is when the front comes through like that, that's just the condition that happens."