By Dick Holliday
More than a century ago, a visionary sailor named Thomas Fleming Day invented a pioneer ocean race from America to Bermuda. The idea seemed radical but it caught on and today the Newport Bermuda Race (NBR) is the world’s oldest scheduled ocean race.
Next stop Bermuda! Michael Maholchic’s Swan 44 Stormy Weather (Annapolis, MD) powers out of Newport. © Allen Clark/PhotoBoat.com
Since 1926, the race has been co-organized by the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. In 50 Bermuda Races since 1906, 50,000 men and women and 5,000 boats have sailed in the event known and respected worldwide as The Thrash to the Onion Patch.
The next start is on June 15, 2018 off the Castle Hill Light in Newport, RI. The 635-mile race will finish off St. David’s Lighthouse in Bermuda. The Newport Bermuda Race is open to blue-water capable yachts sailing with full crews and double-handed, from family cruisers and cruiser-racers to state-of-the-art racing machines. While the majority of yachts are raced by amateur crews, professionally raced grand prix yachts are welcome to race in highly competitive divisions. All yachts race under the Offshore Racing Rule (ORR) handicapping system.
First time entrants are the lifeblood of the Newport Bermuda Race, and the race organizers encourage their participation. To that end, the organizers have established the Ambassador Program, in which newcomers may request assignment of an Ambassador, an experienced Newport Bermuda Race sailor, to help guide them through the entry process and preparation and inspection of their yacht. Typically, 20-25% of the fleet is under the command of first-time skippers. Contact the Participation Committee by email at participation@BermudaRace.com.
Registration applications will be accepted beginning January 12, 2018. The Race entry process begins with submission of an online application for entry for the yacht and her crew. After review by the Crew Qualifications Committee, entrants gain access to the registration system. Almost all of the application and registration process is handled online through the race website, BermudaRace.com.
A happy crew is a fast crew on Adam Loory’s Roger Martin 40 Soulmates (Mamaroneck, NY). © Allen Clark/PhotoBoat.com
Historic trophies include the classic St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy, which is awarded to the top yacht in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division. Other major trophies include: The Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Trophy, The Carleton Mitchell Finisterre Trophy, The Phillip S. Weld and Moxie Prizes, The Royal Mail Trophy, and more than 100 additional prizes. Included are the Youth Award (crew age 14-23) and five regional awards spanning the U.S. and Canada. In addition, there are prizes for the best combined results for yachts completing the 2018 Newport Bermuda Race and the 2017 Annapolis to Newport Race or the 2017 Marion to Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race or the 2017 Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race. There are also several special category trophies including the Galley Slave Trophy, awarded to the cook aboard the last yacht to finish.
The 635-mile course from Newport across the Gulf Stream to Bermuda is a test of yacht and crew, the reward for which is the incomparable blue water experience and unparalleled sense of accomplishment for all.
Bermuda is one of the top sailing destinations in the world! ©SE Benton
Just one more thing…As the 2017 local sailing season winds to a close it may provide an important opportunity to sail with potential 2018 NBR crew and to measure your boat in order to get a head start on the application process and its requirements. It’s never too early to start to make sure that yacht and crew are suitable and prepared, certified and invited! An early start on the application process is advised. For the 2016 NBR there were more than 200 applications, and for 2018 the invitations are capped at 220.
Dick Holliday is the Participation Committee Chairman of the 51st Newport Bermuda Race.