Veteran Port Huron to Mackinac Race sailors might recognize them, but newbies could be surprised to see the group of around 20 people in teal holding up laminated nines and 10s as they pass.
These are the unofficial, “official style judges,” a group of people who judge the crews on their uniformity and have fun, said Port Huron resident Jo Westphal.
“Yes it is unofficial, but to us it’s very official,” she said.
Westphal said this will be the group’s 20th year judging the race crews’ style. They sit in a grassy area south of the Black River, east of Desmond Marine. They will place their chairs in the open space around 7 a.m. then will head to Maria’s Downtown Café for breakfast before returning to judge the parade of sailboats.
Elvis Presley will even make an appearance, as the group has a life-sized cardboard cutout of the singer they’ll be taking to breakfast with them.
“If there’s anyone there that would like to join us, there’s no requirements!,” Westphal said. “I will have the numbers that we hold for the crews, if they’re uniform, and if they’re not they like to know why, and we do tell them.”
Westphal said the only numbers she has are nines and 10s. If race crews are all in uniform, they get a 10. If someone is not, they get a 9. If the crews ask why they didn’t get a 10, the judges point at the person not in uniform.
“And if they’re really bad, we don’t judge,” she laughed. “It’s really shallow.”
There are people who have been judging the race for years, like Port Huron resident Joanne Adair who has done it for 12 years, but they also encourage people sitting near them to join in the fun.
“We pick up people that are down there to watch the boats and they really get into it,” she said.
Unfortunately the group was unable to judge the event last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Westphal said her cousin is making a sign saying “we’re back.”
Adair said she’s excited for this Saturday and anxious to see who comes. There’s a lot of activity in the morning and in the past a church group has sat next to them handed out doughnuts and coffee.
Westphal said the crews are very appreciative of their presence. They’ll clap and cheer and she even thinks a boat pulled a “U” turn to return and get a 10 score after the final crew member put on their uniform.
Usually the judges are done around 11 or 11:30 a.m. when most boats are out. They’re there to give crews heading into the St. Clair River a boost, Westphal said.
To join in the fun Saturday, “just show up where our chairs are,” she said.
People interested in joining should wear a teal-colored shirt or close color and should bring sunscreen, a jacket, sun glasses and their own drinks. People with questions can call or text Westphal at (810) 982-7277 or (810) 334-5583.