Scuttlebutt Today
  Archived Newsletters »
  Features »
  Photos »

Scuttlebutt Forum
For all your commentary, questions, and updates.

Click here to view.


Bermuda Race Reflections

Author and sailing historian John Rousmaniere provides his thoughts on the centennial Newport to Bermuda Race 2006.

(Tuesday, June 27, 2006) While slowly making our way from Newport to Bermuda last week, I found myself reflecting on a conversation I had with Jim Mertz when I was writing the race’s history, “A Berth to Bermuda.” “Are all Bermuda Races different?” I asked him. His answer was a simple “YEAH.” Because he had sailed in a record 30 races, the statement was authoritative. Jim, who died last January, should have stayed around for the centennial (and very gentle) thrash to the Onion Patch. It overflowed with novelty and history.

click to enlarge
Hap Fauth (centre with white hair) and his 'Bella Mente' crew celebrate first finisher victory
(photo by Barry Pickthall/PPL)
Surprises lay everywhere. Boats that took silver went right, went left, or went center. The biggest, fastest boat in the fleet, Maximus, was only second on elapsed time. The top prizes – the famous Lighthouse Trophies – were won by designs from the 2000s and also the 1960s. Other silver was taken by wooden boats whose lines were drawn in the 1930s.

Purists may complain, but unpredictability has been typical of the Bermuda Race since the first one in 1906. I think it is a reason for the race’s popularity. Over the past 100 years, some 4,500 boats and 46,000 men and women have raced to Bermuda, most of them with little real hope of winning. Why do they keep coming back? It’s enough to enjoy the interesting ride toward a beautiful destination while – to quote the founder, Tom Day – seizing the opportunity “to get a smell of the sea and forget for the time being that there is such a thing as God’s green earth in the universe.”

I sailed down in the Morris 46 Diva, a dedicated cruiser in the same trim as when she goes off on one of her regular voyages to the Azores, Europe, or Newfoundland. By the hardboiled racer’s standards we did not do well, but we had plenty of sleep, some gin rummy, a hot shower, and fresh pineapple and ice cream on the last night at sea. Having been lucky enough to sail in two prize winners that were more austere vessels, I was happy to take the ice cream along with a stimulating watchmate and pleasant sails between the calms and squalls.

click to enlarge
John chatting with Princess Anne
After the race, at the centennial dinner at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, Commodore Andrew Cox kindly asked me to present a copy of “A Berth to Bermuda” to the Princess Royal, Princess Anne. She mentioned a personal connection she has with the race. After the British Bloodhound went to Bermuda in the 1950s under the race’s first female navigator, Mary Blewitt, the yawl became a royal yacht in which Princess Anne learned to love cruising under sail (today, she has a small cruiser in Scotland). As she spoke with animation and knowledge of the histories of yachting and seafaring by women, I found myself deeply moved, for it was her family who had indirectly brought us to Bermuda when King Charles II created yachting as a pastime and sport almost 350 years ago. We do not sail in a vacuum. - John Rousmaniere

Scuttlebutt Sailing Club

GMT Composites

Team McLube

Lemon & Line

Newport Shipyard

Kaenon Polarized

Melges Performance Sailboats

Atlantis WeatherGear

North Sails

North U.

Team One Newport

Doyle Sails

Annapolis Performance Sailing

Ullman Sails

Point Loma Outfitting

click here for list of preferred suppliers

 Latest Issue  |  Archives  |  Calendar  |  Photos  |  Classifieds  |  Extras  |  Forum  |   Scuttlebutt Sailing Club  |  Privacy  |  About  |