Newport Bermuda Race 2016 – Action starts at 3:00PM EDT Friday, June 17 from Newport Rhode Island. 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. Founded in 1906, the Bermuda Race is held for the 50th time in 2016.
The purpose of the Bermuda Race 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 third largest in the race’s history, with approximately 190 boats. The largest fleet, 265 boats, sailed in the centennial race in 2006. The second largest, 197 boats turned out in 2008.
The race attracts sailors from across North America and the globe, with recent entries from Russia, Britain, and China, and always a large turnout of Canadians. The 2016 fleet is extremely diverse. A total of 23 countries are represented among the sailors, and 55 of the boats have at least one sailor from outside the United States. In addition, 41 US States are represented in this fleet.
A typical race
The average crew has ten men or women, many from the same family. Typically, 25-30 percent of captains are sailing their first Newport Bermuda Race in command, but this year the proportion is about 35 percent. 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.
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”), and because Bermuda is an agricultural island.
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.
Watch the start and follow your favorites to Bermuda
Coming alive for you on BermudaRace.com… join Livestream 2PM-5PM on Friday June 17 for live video and commentary on the start. Commentator Andy Green will be host the program from the Inn at Castle Hill overlooking the starting line. With cameras on the hill and on the water, he’ll get close to the action bringing live sailing directly to you. Audio also airs on Newport radio FM 105.9.
Virtual spectators will watch the story unfold as their favorite yachts, skippers, or crewmembers in this 635-mile ocean classic tack and gybe their way through the Gulf Stream and hunt for the wind in the ‘happy valley’ north of Bermuda. All boats in the 2016 fleet will be tracked by YB satellite trackers as live as it can be on Pantaenius Race Tracking — your link to all the action in the race.
by John Rousmaniere