GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The veterans on the Warrior Sailing team crossed the finish line in the Chicago to Mackinac race early Tuesday morning.
The Charlevoix-based team finished 9th in their class and 143rd overall in the annual Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac. They docked the boat around 3 a.m. Tuesday.
“We didn’t finish as well as we thought. There were three boats all finishing at the same time within about one minute of each other after racing for nearly 350 miles. At the end of the day, none of that matters because we were all together,” said Ben Poucher, the program director and coach who raced with the team.
The team lived together and trained together in Charlevoix for two weeks before the race then sailed the boat down to Chicago to take off from the Chicago Yacht Club Saturday morning.
“The race was amazing. When you’re out there, there’s sailing amnesia. You forget the bad times and just remember the good times,” Poucher said.
For the team, they say the good time was about the last day or so when the wind finally filled in and they were able to sail downwind from the Manitou Islands through the Mackinac Bridge, which they crossed under around 12 a.m. Tuesday.
The veterans did all the work with the racing class rules preventing Poucher from even touching the wheel or driving.
“They were like a well-oiled machine. When we were coming in under the Mackinac Bridge, they were trimming the sails and using all the words they didn’t know 10 days ago,” Poucher explained.
Poucher also said he personally has a competitive streak that drives him to want to finish better each race. He believes they will eventually field a team of warriors with enough experience to do that, but ultimately, it’s all about the experience.
“It’s the camaraderie, it doesn’t matter what we finish. There are some special bonds on board and lifetime friendships that have been developed here,” he said.
Warrior Sailing is a nonprofit foundation specifically for veterans, offering those who have served the opportunity to take part in basic training camps, certification programs and competitive races.