With waves up to eight feet battering hulls from multiple directions, the Queen’s Cup sailing competition set course from Bay View’s South Shore Yacht Club (SSYC) for its 80th annual race across Lake Michigan on June 22.
While inclement weather conditions did force a few smaller vessels to withdraw from the race, 160 boats and more than 1,000 sailers battled a choppy Lake Michigan that made the start of the physically demanding journey a bit more unpleasant. It was noted by Queen’s Cup veterans that the conditions were the most challenging in recent memory.
Celebrating its 80th year, the eastward race left in the afternoon from a start line a mile out from SSYC. Participating vessels took between 8 to 14 hours navigating through the dark night to reach their final destination in Grand Haven at just before sunrise.
The race unofficially kicked off the day before on June 21 at SSYC with a one of the most popular party events on Lake Michigan. For 2018, the concluding destination marked the first time in eight years that Grand Haven hosted the Queen’s Cup finish line. Recent finishes to the race include Muskegon, South Haven, Ludington, and St. Joseph.
At the starting line crews in the regatta faced low air temperatures and fierce winds that reached up to 15 miles per hour. The fleet left in 15 waves based on competition class, with craft measuring from 24 to 77 feet in length.
A quarter of the sailers this year were women, reflecting the increase in popularity for sailing. Races like the Queen’s Cup also have a significant economic impact on Bay View and the surrounding area, with many of the participants spending time shopping, dining, and attending other events in town.
The Milwaukee Independent was invited back again this year to photograph the prestigious race from onboard the yacht owned by Gary Johnson. Johnson has piloted power boats for more than four decades, is on the SSYC Board of Directors, and has been involved with the Queen’s Cup for the past 12 years. His vessel this year was designated as the official check-in boat for the race.
The video segment and images present a look at the expanse, challenges, and amazing experience of participating in the nautical event under atypical conditions.
The first race was took place in 1938, and it has run every year since then. The names of winners were once engraved on the cup itself, but that space ran out quickly. The winners now get their name added to a plaque that is displayed next to the cup inside the yacht club. The Queen’s Cup goes to the boat that finishes the race with the top corrected time. The Silvie Trophy goes to the first boat to finish the race, regardless of corrected time. The American Trophy goes to the South Shore Yacht Club boat with the best corrected time.
In technical terms, the cup was not a Queen’s Cup, because only British yachts were able to win a cup offered by Queen Victoria. But the name reflects her involvement with trophy itself, which has a long and interesting history. The American racing sloop Silvie unexpectedly won second place on August 19, 1853 in a regatta scheduled by the Royal Yacht Squadron that was raced off Cowes, England. With no provision for a win by foreigners, the Queen had a special trophy cup commissioned. It was brought back to the New York Yacht Club, Silvie’s home port, and the relic went through a couple periods of obscurity.
While cleaning out a family storeroom, Walter Hull discovered an exquisite rosewood box holding the cup. Hull treasured it for the rest of his life until 1987 when he deeded it to South Shore Yacht Club for an annual race across Lake Michigan that always started from the South Shore Yacht Club and was open to all yachts of a recognized yacht club on the Great Lakes.
Queen’s Cup 2018: Winners by Division
• Cruising Fleet
• Section 9
• Section 8
• Section 7
• Section 6
• Section 5
• Section 4
• Section 3, J111
• Section 2
• Section 1
• Multihull Fleet
• Short Handed
Tango in Blue