A novel sailing race to raise funds for Spirit of Bermuda, celebrate maritime heritage and boost the island’s nautical tourism sector will attract vessels from Annapolis and Newport to the island next month.
Open to any offshore yacht by invitation, the “Spirit of Bermuda Rally” has received the go-ahead from Bermuda’s government and will see vessels leave the US July 6 in the race to St. George’s, culminating in a “Festival of Sail” in Bermuda’s East End.
“We’re thrilled to support the Spirt of Bermuda Rally, which represents the first sports tourism event to be held as we reopen our economy,” said Glenn Jones, Interim CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA). “We applaud all the event’s organisers and look forward to the arrival of participating sailors, who will be a familiar, welcome sight again in our harbours and ports.”
Created by the East End Mini Yacht Club, in liaison with Bermuda Sloop Foundation and the non-profit Sailing Yacht Research Foundation (SYRF), the rally sets sail from two locations: Newport, Rhode Island, and Chesapeake Light, Virginia, finishing at Mills Buoy near the Town Cut in St. George’s. The rally introduces a new format with two starts set up on lines of latitude and longitude in the Atlantic Ocean. Boats joining the North Start will leave from Newport, while those in the West Start will sail down the Chesapeake Bay to international waters.
Notably, the rally and sailing festival will pay tribute to Bermuda’s maritime past—including the important contributions and sacrifices of Black-Bermudian mariners over the centuries.
“We’re proud of the collaboration behind this event which will celebrate sailing, including the rich maritime history of our St George’s community,” said rally Chairman Mark Clarke, of the East End Mini Yacht Club, which marks its 52nd anniversary during the festivities. “Sailing has been an integral part of the shared heritage of Bermuda. This includes the compelling stories of mariners like King’s Pilot James ‘Jemmy’ Darrell; the pioneering advent of the Bermuda Native Yacht Club; the defiant success of the International Comet Class in Bermuda; and the charter received by our own club on July 11, 1968. We look forward to hosting the overseas and local sailing community, supporters and family, to make the first Spirit of Bermuda Rally a success.”
“It is a great honour for Bermuda Sloop Foundation to be a beneficiary of this innovative, inaugural event,” added rally Coordinator Alan Burland, the foundation’s Co-Founder, Past Chairman and Director. “The fact the Spirit of Bermuda Rally is both the first ocean race in the world and the first international event in Bermuda since the start of COVID-19 is a significant achievement, and one we’re proud to be a part of.”
The rally’s innovative design, devised by the non-profit SYRF, brings a flexible format to one of the only Atlantic Ocean racing events slated for 2020. This year’s biennial Newport–Bermuda Race, dubbed the “Thrash to the Onion Patch,” was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race stopover in Bermuda in July.
“For the first time, we will be using a system that allows boats to race and be scored together on different courses, in different weather, and starting at different times,” said SYRF Technical Director Larry Rosenfeld, a life-long friend of Bermudian sailors behind the rally. “We use the SYRF Offshore Scoring system, whereby we compare the time it takes a boat to sail its course in the weather it has available compared to the boat’s optimum routing at 100 percent of the yacht’s predicted speed. The system measures how efficiently each crew sails their boat and how they use the weather they have over their course.
“As the navigator on Spirit of Bermuda’s maiden voyage in 2006, and many races since, I am thrilled to help in any way to promote Bermuda sailing and the Spirit of Bermuda programme, as well as help signal the re-opening of Bermuda,” Rosenfeld added.
Sponsored by Gosling’s, and supported by the BTA, Bermuda Economic Development Corporation (BEDC), Corporation of St George’s, and Bermuda Yacht Services, the rally incorporates eight days of sailing and special events, including an overnight offshore race in local waters before overseas yachts arrive. Highlights include:
- Monday, July 6—Spirit of Bermuda Rally starts off the US East Coast
- Thursday, July 9–10—Spirit of Bermuda and other local vessels participate in the 75–100-mile “Bermuda Triangle Race,” exiting Town Cut and sailing up Bermuda’s South Shore to Argus Banks, returning down the North Shore to St George’s the following day
- Friday, July 10—Rally yachts arrive in Bermuda; welcome reception at EEMYC
- Saturday, July 11—EEMYC celebrates its 52nd anniversary
- Sunday, July 12—St George’s hosts “Festival of Sail” with gigs and Comet Class regatta
- Monday, July 13—Overseas yachts race back to respective US ports
Sailing represents one of four focus sports—golf, tennis, sailing and endurance—identified in the National Tourism Plan as priorities for investment in Bermuda due to their high potential for attracting target visitors and enhancing the island’s overall tourism product.
“We’re excited to lead the resurgence of sports-tourism activity in Bermuda with this event conceived by our sailing stakeholders,” noted BTA Director of Sports Business Development Hazel Clark. “We feel it’s a great opportunity to tell the world Bermuda is open for business and celebrate the legacy of our island’s richly diverse maritime heritage.”
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