Newport Bermuda Race
The 635-mile biennial Newport Bermuda Race is the oldest regularly scheduled ocean race, one of very few international distance races, and (with the Transpac Race) one of just two of the world’s regularly scheduled races held almost entirely out of sight of land.
The 2018 race is the 51st since the 1906 founding, and it also marks the 91st anniversary of the relationship between the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, serving as co-managers and working through the volunteer Bermuda Race Organizing Committee.
Its purpose was stated in 1923 by Cruising Club of America Commodore Herbert L. Stone: “In order to encourage the designing, building, and sailing of small seaworthy yachts, to make popular cruising upon deep water, and to develop in the amateur sailor a love of true seamanship, and to give opportunity to become proficient in the art of navigation. . . .”
This year’s event is expected to be the second largest in the race’s history, with approximately 220 boats. The largest fleet, 265 boats, sailed in the centennial race in 2006. The third largest, 197 boats turned out in 2008.
The race attracts sailors from across North America and the globe. In 2016 sailors represented 23 different countries. 55 of the boats had at least one sailor from outside of the United States.
A Typical Race
The race starts off Newport, R.I., in front of many spectators, on the third Friday in June. It takes more than two hours to get the fleet started. Boats are rated and handicapped under the Offshore Racing Rule, except for the Super Yacht Division.
Depending on the weather and the currents in the Gulf Stream, and the boat’s size and speed, the race takes two to six days. The first boat arrives at the finish line off St. David’s Lighthouse on Sunday or Monday, and the smaller boats arrive between then and Wednesday or Thursday.
Navigational and Tactical decisions
The crucial navigational and tactical decision concerns the course across the Gulf Stream. The race is demanding. The rules say, “The Newport Bermuda Race is not a race for novices.” The course crosses the rough Gulf Stream and is mostly out of the range of rescue helicopters, and Bermuda is guarded by a dangerous reef. The race is nicknamed “the thrash to the Onion Patch” because most Bermuda Races include high winds and big waves (a combination sailors call “a hard thrash”).
The race demands good seamanship, great care, and a boat that is both well-built and properly equipped. The boats must meet stringent equipment requirements and undergo inspection, and the sailors must also pass a review and undergo training in safety. The bonds formed by these sailors are strong. Numerous sailors have sailed more than 10 races, often with family and friends.
The Onion Patch Series
The Onion Patch Series, which includes the Newport Bermuda Race, is 3-race series that includes a round-the-buoy race in Newport the week before the Newport Bermuda Race, the Newport Bermuda Race itself, and another weekend of buoy racing once boats have arrived in Bermuda.
Event 1: The NYYC Annual Regatta – These two days of racing, the weekend before the Newport Bermuda Race, are typically windward-leeward courses off Newport, RI. In even years, the Annual Regatta is a great tune-up opportunity for the Newport Bermuda Race.
Event 2: The Newport Bermuda Race – This classic ocean race starts off Castle Hill on Friday, June 15th and concludes 635 Atlantic Ocean miles later off Bermuda’s landmark St David’s Lighthouse.
Event 3: The RBYC Anniversary Regatta – Two races Bermuda on the Friday after the Newport Bermuda Race. In recent years the format has included a windward-leeward race and a beautiful around the buoys race in the Great Sound, Granaway Deep, Port Royal Bay, and finishing near the Fairmont Hamilton Princess Hotel and the docks of the RBYC in Hamilton Harbour. The RBYC Anniversary Regatta is open to all qualified yachts in Bermuda not just yachts entered in the complete series.
All yachts sailing in the St. David’s Lighthouse or Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Divisions of the Newport Bermuda Race and that also sail in the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Anniversary Regatta may enter and compete for Onion Patch Series awards.
New Port Bermuda Race Schedule 2018
- Saturday, June 8th Onion Patch Series
- Sunday, June 9th NYYC Annual Regatta
- Wednesday, 13th June Crew party
- Thursday, 14th June Preparation for the race, Captain’s Meeting
- Friday, 15th June Start Newport Bermuda Race
- Friday, 22nd June Anniversary regatta/Onion Patch Series
- Saturday, 23th June Prizegiving
Other important dates
- Deadline application for entry: April 1st
Newport Bermuda Race experience needed
The Newport Bermuda Race is not for novices. The 635-mile ocean course across the Gulf Stream is often swept by gale-force winds, large breaking waves, and strong currents that can lead to damage, seasickness, hypothermia, and other issues. The Bermuda Race Organizing Committee very strongly encourages the designing, building, and preparation of seaworthy yachts sailed by self-sufficient crews proficient in navigation and seamanship. This race will test and reward them.
Regatta’s onboard Conviction
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