Don’t miss this Friday’s (6/19) start of Marion-Bermuda: One of New England’s most storied sailing races! 50 boats ranging in size from 34 to 118 feet will set sail from Marion, MA, 645 miles SSE out of Buzzard’s Bay, across the Gulf Stream and on to the finish off St David’s Head, Bermuda. The start, just outside of Sippican Harbor, is a lively spectacle.
The 118-foot “Spirit of Bermuda”, the island’s sail training vessel and Bermuda’s floating ambassador is the largest entry. Returning to defend her 2013 title is “Roust”, last race’s overall winner in 3 days, 18 hours. She is a little 34-foot Sea Sprite, the smallest entry in the race. “Roust” is sailed double-handed and is also celestially navigated. You can watch all the boats’ progress in real time, from start to finish, on the race tracking web site which is sponsored by Kingman Yacht Center.
Marion-Bermuda is a race with many winners. Class divisions are based on handicap ratings. Competition for special awards includes prizes for celestial navigated yachts, short-handed crewed yachts, double-handed crews, family crews, all female crews, youth crews, mini-class yachts of the same hull design, oldest average crew age, regional crews, and combined performance with other offshore races like the Newport Bermuda Race. The Kingman Yacht Center Team Trophy will be presented to one of the three clubs each entering three yachts in the race, which has the fastest combined time.
Marion-Bermuda began in 1977, racing every other year on a schedule opposite Newport-Bermuda. Racers face legendary weather and equipment challenges. In some years, entire fleets have been becalmed for days, bobbing at the mercy of the Gulf Stream currents. Other races have been beset by terrible winds, demastings and boats unable to finish. In 1981 for example, not far into the race, the wind picked up and by halfway had turned into 45 knots of howling trouble. 38 boats did not finish mainly due to gear problems and lack of wind. “Satan’s Mercy” sank close to the Gulf Stream and the crew was rescued by “Windburn” whose crew then elected to carry on with the race. Calms near Bermuda shortened food supply for the expanded crew and she powered into Bermuda. 15 others were so late finishing that the Race Committee was no longer at St. David’s to take their time.