|By Chris Museler
Bermudians and Canadians were the first international sailors to compete in the Bermuda Race, followed in the 1920s and 30s by a few English yachtsmen. It wasn’t until after World War II that other nations began to challenge the Americans in their beloved ocean race. The Onion Patch Series started in 1964 as an international challenge between American, Bermudian, British, Canadian, and Argentinean teams. This year there are 20 boats with international sail numbers, and though there are not enough to have national teams for the Onion Patch Series, instead of club teams, the numbers of foreign boats have been on the rise.
"Our crew is from all over Europe, said Andrew Hall, of the J-133 Jacknife, whose crew includes one Brit, a Frenchman, a Welshman, two Irishmen, and five Americans. Though the boat has a British hailing port, it’s kept in Jamestown, Rhode Island. Hall’s young son was quick to point out the true pedigree by shaking the Blue Ensign and asking, "Can’t you tell?"
Hall sailed Jacknife in the 2006 centennial race and reunited his team this year. He believes that for a European crew, the Bermuda Race is a challenge they are uniquely qualified for. "We are quite experienced," he said. "Three crew have done the Around Ireland race, which is as tough as this. And a few have done transatlantic races."
The Canadian DogsledContinuing the spirit of the early Canadian racers, there were five up North boats - from the round, yellow IOR Kaufman 47 Dogsled, to the semi-professional and modern Vela Veloce. Both Dogsled and the J-44 Akubra have been flying the red Maple Leaf all week.
There are two boats with sail numbers prefixed by "IRL." The organizers have been scratching their heads saying, "This guy really doesn’t sound Irish," but double-handed skipper John Ryan, the international distinction is slightly blurred. "My mother was Irish and I have dual citizenship," said Ryan while he worked through his tool box and odd blocks and line in the sitting-room only cabin of Bolands Mill, a Class 40. He bought the boat in Ireland and exercised the option to keep the local registration out of "convenience and preference."
Jack Ryan displays his Irish sympathies on the sail of his Class 40
Bolands Mill. (Photo by Barry Pickthall/PPL)
"The dream is to have the boat in Europe to race in the shorthanded circuit," said Ryan, who lives in Newark, NJ. "But the IRL is also for nostalgic reasons and as a connection to my history." To make the connection even stronger, he realized after researching the name of the boat that it came from the revolutionary war in Ireland, the Easter Rising of 1916. "Some of my personal heroes were in that war. There has been a nice unexpected Karma with this boat."
Other national sail numbers in the Bermuda Race include New Zealand, Hong Kong, Cayman Islands, and Italy. Some of these are deceiving because a few of these boats are chartered. But regardless of hailing port or sail number, this year’s Bermuda Race had an even sharper international flavor than years past. Who knows, maybe another international Onion Patch Series is not far off. An Argentinean team would fit in at Bermuda quite nicely.