Leaving Newport: Speedboat, the 100ft maxi skippered by Alex Jackson, at the start of the 635-mile Newport-Bermuda Race. *Photo by Daniel Forster/PPL
Leaving Newport: Speedboat, the 100ft maxi skippered by Alex Jackson, at the start of the 635-mile Newport-Bermuda Race. *Photo by Daniel Forster/PPL

This 48th Newport Bermuda Race, the oldest, regularly scheduled ocean yacht race, continues to challenge its contenders. Mercurial Gulf Stream crossings, edgy weather and strong currents connive to test the resilience of both sailors and boats that, for most of the race, are out of sight of land.

The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (RBYC) and Cruising Club of America (CCA) jointly sponsor its 635-miles in a race commonly known as the ‘Thrash to the Onion Patch’.

Comprising members of both organizations, the Bermuda Race Organizing Committee (BROC) accepted the 176 yachts expressing interest in its invitation to sail the 2012 event. By May 22nd, attrition decreased that number to 169.

The boats started off Castle Hill, Newport RI, June 15, led by Bermuda’s tall ship, the race flagship Spirit of Bermuda.

This is Spirit’s first entry in the 106-year-old classic with the introductory, experimental ‘Spirit of Tradition’ Division.

Four boats are 90ft LOA (length overall) or longer. Spirit of Bermuda is the largest boat at 118ft, Indio the second at 100ft. Twenty-one boats are smaller than 40ft LOA, with Sailor Bandido being the smallest at 33ft. The average length of this typical Newport Bermuda fleet is 48ft LOA.

Dorade, 83-years-old and Black Watch at 74 are the oldest boats taking part.

Crews represent 18 US states and six countries, including the US, Bermuda, Canada, Germany, Ireland and Monaco. Four US service academy entries total eight boats.

The last three race-year winners of the St David’s Lighthouse Division (SDL), Sinn Fein in 2006 and 2008 and Carina in 2010 are racing in 2012. Seven of the eight 2010 SDL class winners and three top finishers in the Double-Handed Division are also returning.

Of the professionally crewed boats in the Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse Division in 2010, second place winner, Snow Lion is racing.

Twenty-five per cent of the skippers, this year, are new to the Bermuda Race. Some 40 Lighthouse Division entries are participating in the Onion Patch Series — races prior to, including and following the ocean race.

Bermudian skipper, Dr. Stephen Sherwin is racing Nasty Medicine, while US-domiciled Bermudian, Richard Isted captains Patriot. Three skippers are Bermuda-based (Scott Jackson on Spirit of Bermuda, Amanda Mochrie on Icarus, and Mark Watson on Team Tiburon).

When they set sail today, the fleet will have been focused on Bermuda and the finish line off St David’s Head.

Social media

Featured for the first time are Twitter and Facebook feeds at Newport Bermuda Race 2012 Facebook page and Twitter@BdaRace.

Observers can track the race through Yellowbrick Tracking Ltd., which is available on the race website at www.bermudarace.com, or through Yellowbrick’s iPhone/Android mobile app.

Dr John Osmond, BROC chairman leads off the Bermuda Sun’s Newport Bermuda Race supplement, followed by co-host commodores, the RBYC’s Jonathan Brewin and CCA’s Dan Dyer.

We feature Fred Deichmann BROCP articipation chairman, Richard Holliday Ambassador Programme chairman and two pairs of veteran-newcomers.

Chairman of the Finish Line Committee Eugene Rayner, sailor Gary Ince, Selkie’s Sheila McCurdy and RBYC marina manager, Reggie Horseman add their perspective.

We celebrate this 2012 Newport Bermuda Race.

Happy landfall! n

B. Candace Ray, freelance writer, has written extensively on sailing events including Marion, Tallships and has written many editions of the Sun's Newport-Bermuda feature. She can be contacted on writer@logic.bm.