With an entry deadline of June 4, more than 205 sailboats have registered for the July 20 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race, and the largest of them is the 105’ custom ketch Whitehawk. When she was built in 1978 in Rockland, Maine, the timeless, clipper-bowed Bruce King design (patterned after the famous 1936 Herreshoff-designed racing yacht Ticonderoga) was the largest-ever cold molded wooden boat, and to this day she is still referred to as one of the most beautiful yachts in the world.
Currently, Whitehawk is making her way from Newport, R.I., where for many years she has been a familiar sight among other traditionally designed sailing megayachts, to the Great Lakes where such lines are rarely seen. She was recently bought by Peter Thornton, a Key Largo, Fla. resident who has homes in Bay Harbor and Detroit, Mich.
Among other racing accomplishments, he set the Elapsed Time Monohull Record (Cove Island Course) in the 2017 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race with his Volvo 70 Il Mostro, which he has donated to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Sailing Foundation.
“A yacht like Whitehawk has never been on the Great Lakes,” said Thornton, shortly after closing his purchase in mid-May, “and my desire is to show her off in Chicago and Detroit for the Mackinac Races. She is a magnificent machine that should be viewed by as many people as possible.”
Whitehawk left Newport on her own bottom and last week, after reaching the Erie Canal, was preparing to meet a truck delivering her rig in Oswego, N.Y. After her masts are stepped, she will head for Lake Ontario and up the Detroit River to Lake Huron where she will stop in Bay Harbor to provision before heading to Chicago for the Chicago Mackinac Race and then back to Port Huron for the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race.
Thornton, in his late seventies, has competed in at least 28 Bayview Mackinac Races, taking many class victories in go-fast boats like the Santa Cruz 70 he owned for many years. He decided after last year, however, that he was ready to “wind down” his racing career with a kinder, gentler experience that Whitehawk will offer.
First things first: his racing crew and family will have to get used to the yacht’s luxurious accommodations as compared to the stripped- down Il Mostro. Belowdecks features three oversized staterooms and magnificent appointments, including a ten-sided Mandala skylight, a fireplace, and a head with a teak bathtub.
At the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race, Whitehawk will sail in Division 1 on the Cove Island course – the longer of the two course options designed for the larger, racier boats entered. “Going from a complete carbon racing machine like Il Mostro to a wooden cruising yacht like Whitehawk will be quite a transition,” said Thornton, with a grin reflected in his voice. “We’ll be mixed in with boats like the TP52s, and they’ll be running away from us, but that’s okay.”