File photo by kageaki smith
CULTURE: Enjoy the colour, sights and sounds of Gombeys.
File photo by kageaki smith CULTURE: Enjoy the colour, sights and sounds of Gombeys.
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Visiting sailors, families and friends can enjoy a bumper Bermudian welcome in this year’s Marion to Bermuda race.

Organizers on the island have arranged a packed schedule of events and activities to occupy all ages, and to introduce visitors to some of the more unique aspects of Bermudian culture.

Fishcakes

With an afternoon tea hosted by the Governor’s wife, a fishcake demonstration, cricket lessons, Gombey dancing and mixing up Rum Swizzles, the Bermuda race committee hopes to make visitors feel even more at home.

Charles Dunstan, operating committee — Bermuda operations and race activities, said: “We’ve come up with some nice events to give people a taste of Bermuda, and Gosling’s are helping us out in terms of the fun.”

Following feedback from families visiting the island in previous years, there are now more events to keep youngsters busy.

Mr Dunstan said: “It’s not just kids, but wives and husbands too. We’ve got a series of events built around the culture of Bermuda.

“We’ve got a fishcake demonstration by Dale Butler (‘King of Fishcakes’) one lunchtime. On another day, we’ve arranged cricket lessons with Allen Richardson, a Bermuda Cricket Board member and former player on the national team. He will teach some of the North Americans how the game works, and some of its quirks.

“We’ve also got a fashion show that will allow some of the retailers in town to highlight what people can find in their stores, and on Friday we have a fun sailing regatta for family and friends. Gosling’s are organizing the after-party, with a Crown & Anchor table.

“We’ve also teamed up with Elbow Beach who are doing an Adventure Camp, involving wreck diving, the Bermuda National Museum and other points of interest.

“For the adults, the Fairmont Southampton Resort is offering golf specials.”

The Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute is also offering fun educational sessions on sharks, prehistoric seas, seashells and pirates for children aged seven to 13.

Camaraderie

Mr Dunstan said while most visitors are from the US, there are also Canadian yachts which sometimes compete.

“We also often get the maritime academy/cadet institutions who send a boat.

“The Marion to Bermuda race is not a full-on professional race, so this type of event works well for them. It’s good for celestial navigation training, and training at sea in a competitive environment.”

He said the race also helps to prepare skippers and boat owners for bigger events and voyages.

“It’s not much different from other races that take place all over the world, but people can use the Marion to Bermuda race as a
qualifier for other races such as the Transatlantic Race, so this is a nice introduction to that.

“Some of the skippers will have been working on this race for a year or more now, getting their boats ready and meeting all kinds of safety compliances.

“The Marion to Bermuda race prepares them to go to sea in a regulated fashion, so once they’ve entered a race like this they are well prepared to go anywhere in the world on their boat.”

He added: “It is also a family-oriented race, and Bermuda is a beautiful place to bring your family to, with wonderful activities, events and parties.

“The event initiates a real sense of camaraderie. It is quite an undertaking to come across the ocean and so this creates camaraderie among the people taking part.

“And when you arrive on the island you are greeted with typical Bermudian hospitality.”

In terms of accommodation for visitors, Mr Dunstan said: “It’s a bit of everything. Some people who’ve been coming for years may stay with local friends, or people will stay in hotels, guesthouses, or rent houses through one of the rental agencies.”

Lengths of stay vary from a few days to a week or more, as some skippers use the opportunity to enjoy a vacation on the island with family and friends.

Some will also fly in another crew to sail their boat back home for them.

This year both the Fairmont Hamilton Princess and Royal Palms Hotel are sponsoring the event and have special room rates for visitors.

The Marion to Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race is therefore a boon for tourism, said Mr Dunstan.

“Over the last several races we probably had about 20 people on average coming to Bermuda associated with each boat. The average crew numbers themselves tend to be about six.

“When you start to interpret these numbers into hotel and restaurant revenues, this event really starts making sense in terms of tourism. It has a pretty good impact.”

The race committee and the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club (RHADC) are also keen to welcome local residents to the yacht club and its events.

“The yacht club is open to all,” said Mr Dunstan, a past commodore of the RHADC.

“It’s a great excuse to meet a bunch of new people and make new friends, and also to see all these beautiful boats.”

About 40 yachts are taking part in this year’s race and most will be moored at the RHADC’s marina.

“We may get one or two staying in St George’s but most will be moored at the club,” said Mr Dunstan.

“We encourage the boats to put all their signal flags up and so it is quite a sight, it makes a nice spectacle.”

The week’s events start on Monday evening with a cocktail party at St David’s Lighthouse, close to the finish line.

They will end with the prizegiving and a gala dinner at the RHADC on Saturday, June 22.

 

For more information see www.marionbermuda.com or www.rhadc.bm