Algoma Sailing Club
St. Mary's River,  Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

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Sault Star, Local News

Ready to sail away.
by Jerret Semczysyn
Monday, July 16, 2012 12:12:10 EDT PM

After winning last year's MacMan Challenge, one Algoma Sailing Club crew is hoping to feel the same 'high' this year.

Andrew Hallet's crew that includes Chuck Holgate, Tom Carmichael, Jack Rice and Zach Ray will attempt to sail their yacht called "Natural High" to victory for the second consecutive year in the 9th annual race scheduled to kick off Wednesday from Mackinaw Island.

The 42-year-old skipper is optimistic his team will fare well, but Hallet knows very well that being the defending champs paints a good size bulls-eye on their crew heading into this year's competition.

"We're certainly hopeful, we placed first overall last year so we've kind of got a target on us this year," Hallet said. "We think we've got the boat ready, we've got lots of sails with us for all of the different conditions we're anticipating."

The race from Mackinaw to Manitoulin requires sailors to prepare for more that 24 hours of sailing from start to finish. Hallet and his crew departed for Mackinaw on the yacht on Sunday, and will meticulously prepare for the race by participating in smaller events leading up to the MacMan Challenge.

One change in Hallet's crew heading into this year's challenge is they will be without member Alex Elder for work related commitments. Joining the crew in his place is 29-year-old Zach Ray, one of the youngest members at the Algoma Sailing Club. Hallet said it is tradition to add up-and-coming sailors to the crew to fill spots in the roster, and he said Ray will have the opportunity to sail alongside experienced sailor Chuck Holgate who has sailed for over 30 years.

"Chuck Holgate is sort of the senior member on the team, and years ago when he started at the sailing club one of the skippers invited him out on a distance race," Hallet said. "We're just sort of continuing with that tradition."

The Natural High crew will face fellow Sault rival yachts "Sky Ship" and "Echo," a pair of crews that have battled neck-and-neck in past events, including the recent Hilton Sailing Club Thessalon Island race where Sky Ship edged Hallet's crew for second place which dropped them to a third place finish.

"We're racing against Sky Ship that's also from the Sault. He's certainly going to provide some stiff competition, and he certainly has in the past," he said. "There's a third boat from the Sault that's already on it's way called Echo, and all three of us places in Hilton and all three of us placed in the Mackinaw-Manitoulin event last year. So we've got a lot of competition and a lot of it is coming from Sault Ste. Marie."

The Sky Ship crew, captained by Gordon Simpson, includes his son Glen, Phil Routh and Leroy Pieri. The Echo crew includes Gerry Neave and Algoma Sailing Club commodore Brian Christie.

Hallet said the nucleus of his crew formerly sailed with the Sky Ship crew, but he said he decided to purchase his own yacht as a result of the fun he had sailing in previous years. Other members of Hallet's team also own their own yachts, but Hallet added he considers himself lucky to be surrounded by the men in his crew.

"It's all part of the fun. I was having so much fun I wanted to join with my own boat," Hallet said. "I guess I'm probably pretty lucky that the guys that are sailing with me, we sail as a team. We talk things through before we do it. I think by including everybody in the kinds of decisions that we're making strengthens the team."

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