2016 Schedule of Events
8:50 am Sinclair Packwood Memorial Cycle Race / Somerset to Hamilton
9:00 am Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby / Somerset to Hamilton
12:00 noon Bermuda Dinghy Races / St. George’s Harbour
1:30 pm Bermuda Day Parade / Hamilton
May 24th, also known as Bermuda Day, is the unofficial start of summer on the island. May 24th is traditionally the first day of the year that Bermudians swim in the sea or take their boats out on the water. By the end of May the weather is usually very fine, with air temperatures of between 72 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and water temperatures also in the low to mid 70s, so taking that first dip in the ocean is a real delight! Additionally, May 24th is the date on which most local men transition from wearing trousers to Bermuda shorts.
Bermuda Day has had several previous incarnations. It first became a public holiday as a celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday (‘Victoria Day’). It then became ‘Empire Day’, and subsequently ‘Commonwealth Day’, retaining that name until a period of civil unrest in the 1970s. Lord Pitt, sent to Bermuda in the wake of violent riots, suggested adapting the May 24th holiday to promote interracial harmony and celebrate shared heritage.
Today, May 24th is the culmination of Heritage Month and it features some of the island’s best-loved cultural events. Crowds gather along the roadsides to watch runners, cyclists and rollerbladers compete in the annual Sinclair Packwood Memorial Cycle Race and the May 24th Half-Marathon Derby.
The Sinclair Packwood Memorial Cycle Race kicks off the day’s activities at 8:50 am with a 13.1 mile sprint from Somerset to Cedar Avenue in Hamilton. Entry is by invitation only with categories for men, women and juniors. (2016 Course Map)
The running race follows the same course as the cyclists. Start time is 9:00 am. In 2015 the course start was switched to St. George’s in the east end. Going forward it looks like the east and west ends of the island will take turns hosting the race start. Notably, only Bermudians and residents who have lived on the island for a minimum of six months are eligible to enter (Half Marathon Derby Video).
At 12 noon, islanders take to their boats to enjoy the first race of the season for Bermuda fitted dinghies. These uniquely Bermudian boats have more sail and carry more bodies during a race than any other racing vessels of their size. At the beginning of a race, five or six crew members are crammed into the 14-foot hull, but the Bermuda fitted dinghy boat class allows for the jettisoning of crew members during the course of the race. The shallow hull of the dinghy takes on a lot of water, and at least one crew member will spend the majority of the race bailing.
Last out of the gate, but absolutely not least, the much loved Bermuda Day Parade kicks off at 1:30 pm. Organizations and performers process from Bernard Park through Hamilton to Front Street and on to City Hall. Majorettes, Bermuda Gombeys, floats and bands fill the streets with music and colour in a celebration of Bermuda’s cultural diversity. (Bermuda Day Video).
If you’re visiting Bermuda over the May 24th holiday, be sure to get out and about and enjoy the day. Just be aware of the fact that many locals are on holiday and as a result buses and ferries run on a reduced holiday schedule, fewer taxis are on the road, stores and shops are closed and many restaurants are closed for either part or all of the day and evening. Your hotel or guest house staff will be able to advise and assist you with travel and dining arrangements so be sure to check with them before you head out for the day.
Article thumbnail photo by Department of Communication and Information / CC