Bernida: Michigan’s Sailing Queen

Considered a thoroughbred racing yacht, the 32-foot sloop Bernida (originally named Ruweida III) was launched in 1921 in New England and made her way to the Great Lakes in time for the inaugural Bayview to Mackinac Yacht Race in 1925. With Russ Pouliot at the helm, Bernida made her presence known as she sailed into victory with a time of 49 hours, 50 minutes. 
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Racing Yacht Bernida
Racing Yacht "Bernida" - Courtesy Michigan Maritime Museum

It is said Bernida does not replicate history…she IS history. And she has quite a story to share.

Considered a thoroughbred racing yacht, the 32-foot sloop Bernida (originally named Ruweida III) was launched in 1921 in New England and made her way to the Great Lakes in time for the inaugural Bayview to Mackinac Yacht Race in 1925. With Russ Pouliot at the helm, Bernida made her presence known as she sailed into victory with a time of 49 hours, 50 minutes. 

She won again in 1927. 

From there, it was off to Holland and Pentwater before this fast and elegant boat went into hiding, lost for a considerable amount of time before being rediscovered by Toby Murray in a barn near Frankfort some 80 years later. She was later purchased by Bart Huthwaite, who hired Emory Barnwell to restore her to her glory. 

By 2012, Bernida was ready to ply through the water again as a contender in the Bayview to Mackinac Yacht Race. She did not disappoint. Just like she had done 87 years prior, Bernida won the race with a corrected time of 41:34:42, with Al Declercq as skipper. Al recounts the entire saga in a book he wrote, with Tom Ervin, called “Bernida: A True Story that Can’t Be True” (2013).

Within weeks of her triumph, Bernida was donated to the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven, where public sails are offered throughout the summer season. With a volunteer captain and crew aboard, Bernida can carry up to four passengers who wish to experience this swift and historic champion boat. The cost is $50 per person, for a two-hour sail, by appointment only. For details, visit michiganmaritimemuseum.org.

  Dianna Stampfler, Michigan BLUE Magazine

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