Top O'Michigan Outboard Marathon

Starting point: DeVoe Beach, Indian River

There are other boat races in the world, but nothing quite like the Top O' Michigan Outboard Marathon.

During a 40-mile trip on Saturday and another on Sunday, racers kneeling on foam cushions in small outboard boats that are less than 15-feet long and weigh less that 200 pounds race through the rivers and lakes of the Inland Water Route. The 2020 race will take place Aug. 8 & 9. As has been happening for more than 70 years, racers from all over the U.S. will be coming to northern Michigan to compete in a race that in boat racing circles has become legendary.

For drivers, the race has a little bit of everything. The race starts both days at DeVoe Beach in Indian River with drivers feeling their hearts race when they hear the word's "Flag's up." Once the flag drops, then the adventure begins. Whether it's racing for the turn buoy in Burt Lake, leaning into the curves of the Indian and Crooked Rivers, flying across the open water while crossing Burt Lake, feeling like you're in a high-speed parade on water as you pass the Green Docks, the Cheboygan River railroad bridge or the Alanson swing bridge, breathing a sigh of relief upon seeing Topinabee on the way back from taking a beating on Mullett Lake, or enjoying a sense of accomplishment upon crossing the finish line there's something going on every second of the race.

Saturday's race begins in Indian River and travels through the Indian River into Mullett Lake through the Cheboygan River to Cheboygan and then back again. Sunday's race crosses Burt Lake, goes into the Crooked River, through Crooked Lake to Conway, then back to Indian River, through the Indian River into Mullett Lake and back to the finish line.

The pit area is at DeVoe Beach and spectators are welcome to come in and meet the drivers. In recent years there has been a growing number of young drivers, both male and female. Veteran racers often help new racers get into racing. There are multiple classes of boats for adult racers and there's also a junior class in which young racers get their start in racing on an abbreviated course. In recent years, the race has typically drawn about 100 boats.

The race is organized by the Top O' Michigan Outboard Racing Club. Law enforcement agencies, emergency responders and volunteers in patrol boats assist in making the race a safe and fun event. In 2019, the Top O' Michigan Racing Club worked with people from Grand Lake in Presque Isle County to establish a new race, the Fireside 500. That race will celebrate its second year in 2020, not quite the 70-plus years of the Top O' Michigan race, but a good start.