Bermuda Race Facts & Firsts
The Newport Bermuda Race...
Is sailed biennially over a 635-mile course from Newport, R.I., to St. Davids Head, Bermuda. The 2012 race is the 48th since 1906. The race is sailed under the Ocean Racing Rule (ORR). Most boats finish in three to five days.
Is the oldest regularly scheduled ocean race, one of very few races with the start and finish in different countries, one of the rare races sailed almost entirely out of sight of land, and regularly one of the largest ocean races with fleets larger than 170 boats.
Is demanding. The Newport Bermuda Race is not a race for novices, warns the Notice of Race. Safety rules are rigorous, crews must be experienced, and all boats undergo pre-race inspection.
Is called the thrash to the Onion Patch because it usually includes sailing in rough water, and it finishes at a small island that was long an agricultural center.
Awards the coveted Lighthouse Trophies, replicas of Bermudas major lights. The St. Davids Lighthouse Trophy (the main prize) is for the winner of the largest division, for boats crewed by amateur sailors. The Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Trophy goes to the winner of the division for boats with professional crews.
Has a diverse fleet. Other prizes include the Carleton Mitchell/Finisterre Trophy (Cruiser Division), Phillip S. Weld Prize (Double-Handed Division), Royal Mail Trophy (Open Division for cant-keel boats), William L. Glenn Family Participation Prize (best finish with at least four family members in crew), North Rock Trophy (top boat under IRC rule), and Onion Patch Trophy (for a three-part series including the Bermuda Race).
The Bermuda Race was founded in 1906 by Thomas Fleming Day, editor of The Rudder magazine. Sailors wanted to get a smell of the sea and forget for the time being that there is such a thing as Gods green earth in the universe, Day explained. The race was sailed annually through 1910.
In 1923 Herbert L. Stone and Yachting magazine revived the race with this purpose: 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. Since 1926 the Bermuda Race has been co-organized by the Cruising Club of America (founded 1922) and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (founded 1845). The race inspired the Port-Huron-Mackinac Race, the Fastnet Race, and the Off Soundings Club, among other races and organizations.
By the numbers
Total Bermuda Races 47 (1906-2010)
Total entries 4,860 boats with approximately 51,000 sailors
Total miles raced (approximately) 3,200,000 miles
Lives lost 1, in a fire on the schooner Adriana, 1932 (ten sailors were saved from Adriana by a competitor, Jolie Brise)
Boats lost 2 (Adriana, 1932, and Elda, 1956, when she ran up on a reef)
May 1906, Brooklyn to Bermuda. One division, three starters between 28 and 40 feet in length. Winner (Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy), Tamerlane, 38-foot yawl skippered by the races founder, Thomas Fleming Day.
Start locations and course length
Brooklyn, N.Y., 668 nautical miles (1906-07, 1909-10); Marblehead, Mass., 675 miles (1908), New London, Conn., 660 miles (1923-30, 1934); Montauk, N.Y., 628 miles (1932); Newport, R.I., 635 miles (1936-2012).
Mosts and Bests
Fleet size More than 110 boats have raced every year since 1958. Since 2000 fleets have averaged more than 170 boats.
Record fleet: 264 boats, 2006 Centennial Race. The second-largest fleet was 198 boats in 2008 and the third largest was 183 boats in 2010.
Most victories, boat (overall or St. Davids Lighthouse)
3 Finisterre, Carleton Mitchell (1956-60)
2 (tie) Baruna, Henry C. Taylor (1938, 1948), Sinn Fein, Peter S. Rebovich (2006-08), and Carina (1970 Richard Nye, 2010 Rives Potts)
- Most victories, skipper (overall or St. Davids Lighthouse)
- 3 (tie) John Alden (1923, 1926, 1932), Carleton Mitchell (1956-60)
- 2 (tie) Robert N. Bavier (1924, 1934), Richard S. and Richard B. Nye (1952, 1970), Peter S. Rebovich (2006-08)
Most first to finishes
Skipper 4, George Coumantaros, two Boomerangs (1984, 1990-92, 1996)
Boat 3 (tie): Baruna (1936, 1946-48); Bolero (1950, 1954-56); Boomerang (1984, 1990-92)
Best elapsed time Pyewacket, Roy Disney, 53:39:22 hrs. (ave. 11.8 knots), 2002
Largest winner Margaret, 93 feet, 1909; (modern) Boomerang, 80 feet, 1996
Smallest winner Burgoo, 37 feet, 1964
Largest and smallest entries Amorita, 100 feet, 1909, Gauntlet, 28 feet, 1906
Winning skippers who also won the Americas Cup Harold S. Vanderbilt, 1910 (1930, 1934, and 1937 Americas Cups), and Ted Hood, 1968 (1974 Americas Cup)
Most successful yacht designer Olin Stephens, 14 victories (1934-1994)
Sailor 30, Jim Mertz (1936-2004), 26 (George Coumantaros), 24 (Edward Greeff and Edwin Gaynor)
Boat 17, Emily, Edwin Gaynor (1976-2008), 16, Carina Dick & Richard Nye and Rives Potts (1970-2010)
Family boats The Bermuda Race is well known for being a family event. Thora Lund Robinson and her husband sailed in the first race in 1906. Many families have long regarded racing to Bermuda as a rite of passage. The William L. Glenn Family Participation Prize, first awarded in 2008, goes to the top performing boats in the Cruiser and St. Davids Lighthouse Divisions that have at least four immediate family crewmembers, one of whom must be the skipper, navigator, or a watch captain. Eighteen boats registered for the prize in 2010.
Oldest winning skippers
74 years old DeCoursey Fales, Nina, 1962
72 years old George Coumantaros (1996), Peter S. Rebovich (2008)
Youngest winning skipper 22-year-old Kyle Weaver, Constellation, 1992 (U.S. Naval Academy, highest service academy finish)
First woman sailor Thora Lund Robinson, Gauntlet, 1906
Highest placing woman skipper in a Lighthouse division Sheila McCurdy, Selkie, 2nd in both1994 and 2008
Highest placing woman skipper in any class or division Eleanora de Haas, Synergy (with all-woman crew), winner Cruiser Division, 2006
First Bermuda Race New York to Bermuda, 1906
First Bermuda entry (tie) Isolt and Zena, 1907
First freshwater entry Priscilla (Rochester, N.Y.), 1907
First Old World entry Jolie Brise U.K., 1926
First West Coast entry Santana, W. A. W. Stewart, Jr., 1938
First Canadian entry Gauntlet, A. E. Dingle, 1923
First South American entry Fjord, Argentina, 1954
First Australian entry Apollo, 1970
First freshwater winner Scaramouche, Chuck Kirsch (Sturgis, Mich.), 1974
First and only non-U.S. winner Noryema, U.K., 1972
First service academy entry Vamarie, USNA, 1938
Bermuda Race Roll of Honour
The Bermuda Race Roll of Honour recognizes and honors extraordinary achievement in or concerning the Newport Bermuda Race and its predecessor races. The equivalent of a hall of fame, the Roll of Honour is managed by a selection committee jointly appointed by the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.
Honorees as of 2008
Thomas Fleming Day
Bermuda Race founder, 1906
Winning skipper, first race, Tamerlane
Sir Eldon H. Trimingham
Bermuda Race organizer and leader
Royal Bermuda YC Commodore
Helmsman, Adriana, 1932
He gave his life to save ten others
Skipper, Jolie Brise, 1932
He rescued ten sailors from the burning Adriana
Most consecutive overall wins (1956-60), Finisterre
Most wins (three, tying John Alden)
George S. Coumantaros
Most elapsed time victories (four), the Boomerangs
Race winner, elapsed time record holder, 26 races
Olin J. Stephens II
Designed more overall and class winners than any other naval architect
John Rousmaniere, March 2012