Photo courtesy of charterworld.com
The Bermuda Race, or Newport Bermuda Race, is a biennial yacht race from Newport, Rhode Island to the island of Bermuda (in odd years, the Marion-Bermuda Yacht Race occurs), a distance of 635 nautical miles (1175 km) across open ocean.
The first Bermuda Race was started by the Brooklyn Yacht Club started in 1906 from Gravesend Bay, N.Y. with three entries. It ended that year at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club off St. David’s Head, Bermuda. The winner (and one of the two that finished) of that first race was a 38-foot yawl Tammerlane, commanded by Thomas Fleming Day, then editor of The Rudder magazine. The race was held several more times in the 1900s and 1920s.
At the close of World War I Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Vice-Commodore Eldon Trimingham met with a group of New Yorkers, including Herbert L. Stone, editor of Yachting. The result was a revival of the Race, and in 1923 22 boats started at New London, Connecticut, and every one finished.
Starting in 1926, the Cruising Club of America (CCA) and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (RBYC) have co-organized the race, setting a regular schedule for holding the race in even-numbered years. That schedule has continued to the present except for a hiatus during World War II. In early years, the race started at Gravesend, Marblehead, Mass., New London, Conn. and Montauk, N.Y., but since 1938 it has started at Newport. Over the past 100 years, some 4,500 boats and 46,000 men and women have raced to Bermuda, most of them with little real hope of winning. One founder, Tom Day may have hit the reason so many people join the race, they are seizing the opportunity “to get a smell of the sea and forget for the time being that there is such a thing as God’s green earth in the universe.”
“The Bermuda Race is the pre-eminent distance race on the East Coast,” to quote Gary Jobson, Honorary Chair of the event’s 2006 centennial race. “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.” With 265 yachts the 2006 edition was the largest yet. Winners, that year, received trophies from The Princess Royal at Government House, the residence of the governor.
The 1906 race was won by Tamerlane, a 38 ft (11 m) yawl, captained by Frank Maier in a time of 126 hours. The current record of 54 hr was set by Roy Disney’s Pyewacket in 2002.