It would be difficult to find a better description of the Newport-Bermuda Race than the one found on the race website (www.bermudarace.com), so we’ll lead with that: “Few tests of blue-water seamanship are as iconic as the 635-mile Newport Bermuda Race. The 2016 race (starting on June 17) is the 50th and also marks the 90th anniversary of the partnership of the organizers, the Cruising Club of America and Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.”
“Sailed almost entirely out of sight of land, the Bermuda Race was created in 1906 by Thomas Fleming Day. The colorful Tom Day was a pioneer in the sport of long-distance racing. In the 1920s the race inspired Britain’s Fastnet Race and Royal Ocean Racing Club, and also the freshwater Bayview-Mackinac Race on Lake Huron.”
“In a typical race, a chilly 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 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 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. Recent entries and race results are listed on the race website.”
That first race in 1906 started from Gravesend Bay, NY with three starters and was competed intermittently until 1926 when a regular schedule of holding the race in even years began. That schedule has continued to the present except for a hiatus during WWII. The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club began hosting the finish and festivities after the race in the 1920s. The Cruising Club of America has sponsored it in conjunction with the RBYC since 1926. In 1938 the start was moved to Newport, Rhode Island. Over the years the CCA worked with many groups to develop the rating rules that the race was sailed under. Today the Newport Bermuda race stands as a pinnacle in ocean racing.
The 2016 Newport Bermuda Race has 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.
- David’s Lighthouse Division:cruiser-racers with amateur helmsmen
- Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division:racers with professional helmsmen permitted
- Cruiser Division:cruisers/passage makers 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
Detailed information on the 2016 Race, everything from Gulf Stream strategy and tactics to pre and post-race boat and gear shipment, can be found on www.bermudarace.com.