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The Newport Bermuda Race, widely known as the Bermuda Race is a 635 nautical miles (1175 km) sailing yacht race from Newport, Rhode Island to the island of Bermuda sailed in even-numbered years. It is the oldest regularly scheduled ocean race. June 17, 2016 the 50th race will begin. To quote Gary Jobson, “It’s a feather in every sailor’s cap to have done the race, and many consider the Lighthouse Trophy the most coveted trophy in distance racing.”
In a typical race, a cold first night brings the fleet out into the Atlantic. As the sailors enter the realm of their new lord and master, the Gulf Stream, the race often makes good on its nickname, “The Thrash to the Onion Patch.” Once through the rough Gulf Stream, the sailors press on to the finish off St. David's Lighthouse. Inhaling the sweet smell of oleander, they motor up the winding channel to Hamilton, where the Dark ’n Stormies flow at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club until the prize ceremony on Government House’s spectacular hilltop, where handsome and historic trophies are presented by Bermuda’s Governor . Prize or not, any crew can glory in the satisfaction of having raced to Bermuda.
The very first Bermuda Race was an act of rebellion. In 1906, the Establishment believed that it would be insane for amateur sailors to race offshore in boats under 80 feet. Thomas Fleming Day, the feisty editor of The Rudder magazine, vehemently disagreed, insisting, “The danger of the sea for generations has been preached by the ignorant.” Certain that an ocean race would be enjoyable and safe – and also develop better sailors and better boats – Day founded one on his own. The Brooklyn Yacht Club started the race in New York Bay, and down on the island paradise, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club finished it off St. David’s Head.
Critics predicted disaster. It was rumored that funeral wreaths were delivered to the three boats (all under 40 feet) so the sailors would be prepared to make a decent burial at sea. The smallest entry then (and in Bermuda Race history) was the 28-foot sloop Gauntlet. She was notorious for her size, and also for her crew because it included a woman, 20-year-old Thora Lund Robinson. Having outpaced Gauntlet and another boat which dropped out, and the winner was the 38-foot yawl Tamerlane, with Thomas Fleming Day himself as sailing master. When he reached the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club quay under tow, 4,000 of the island’s 14,000 residents were there to greet her (the club’s officers apologized for the small turnout; this was, after all, a Sunday). The yacht club provided a special anchorage off White’s Island for the race boats, set aside rooms for the skippers and navigators in the clubhouse (which was then on Front Street), and laid on many parties culminating with a traditional turtle dinner at the prize banquet, where His Excellency the Governor-General and Tom Day vied for the honor of giving the most colorful speech.
There were four more races before the sailors decided it was too much to ask that the race be held annually.
After World War I Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (RBYC) Vice-Commodore Eldon Trimingham went up to New York to stir up a revival of the race and found many American sailors who were of the same mind. After 22 boats started in 1923 at New London, Conn., there was hard going in the Gulf Stream (“The next time I come to Bermuda it will be in a submarine,” one soggy sailor announced in Bermuda), but every boat finished. Three years later, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and the Cruising Club of America teamed up to host the race. Even today, the task of inspecting boats, arranging for trophies, the starting and finishing lines, and maintaining the race’s emphasis on safe seamanship falls on volunteer members of both clubs. In 45 races over a century, only two boats have been lost, one on Bermuda’s reef, and the other in a deadly fire in 1932 that also claimed the Bermuda Race’s only loss of life.
165 boats started the 48th Newport Bermuda Race in 2012. A new elapsed time record of 39 hours, 39 minutes, 18 seconds was set in 2012 by George David's 90-foot Rambler, which averaged over 16 knots under perfect sailing conditions. The corrected time winner for the second straight race was Rives Potts' 48-foot Carina, which also won the race in 1970.
Again 165 boats the 49th Newport Bermuda Race in 2014 Shockwave took line honors and first overall corrected time winner in one of the slowest races in recent history in far from perfect sailing conditions.
All race results are posted at the Bermuda Race website.
2016 Race -- a new record
At 4:22:53EDT on June 19, 2016, James H. Clark's 100-Foot Comanche, with Skipper Ken Read and Stan Honey navigating, crossed the finish line in Bermuda with an elapsed time of 34h 52m 53s, breaking George David's Rambler record by more than 4h 36s.
The 2016 Bermuda Race was the 50th running of the race. More than 195 boats were sanctioned by the Bermuda Race Organizing Committee as qualified entries in the 50th Newport Bermuda Race. An International fleet competed in the biennial race that began on June 17. There was also the Onion Patch Series, a parallel inter-club and international team-race event.
The 2016 Newport Bermuda Race had seven divisions, each with its divisional and class prizes. The race has no single winner. Except Super Yachts, each division is rated under the Offshore Racing Rule (ORR)
- St. David’s Lighthouse Division: cruiser-racers with amateur helmsmen.
- Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division: racers with professional helmsmen permitted.
- Cruiser Division: cruisers/passagemakers with amateur helmsmen.
- Double-Handed Division: one crew may be a professional.
- Open Division: cant-keel racers with professional helmsmen permitted.
- Super Yacht Division: 90-plus feet long, International Super Yacht Rule.
- Spirit of Tradition Division: replicas and other traditional boats.
St. David's Lighthouse Trophy
|2014||Actaea||Hinkley Bermuda 40||Michael Cone||Cruising Club of America|
|2016||Warrior Won||Xp 44||Christopher Sheehan||Larchmont Yacht Club|
|2018||Grundoon||Columbia 50||James Grundy||New York Yacht Club|
|2014||Shockwave||George Sakellaris||Reichel/Pugh||63h 04m 11s|
|2016||Comanche||James H. Clark and Kristy Hinze||VPLP design||34h 42m 53s|
|2018||Rambler 88||George David||Juan Kouyoumdjian||50h 31m 51s|