Forecaster are predicting fair winds during the early stages of the 47th Newport Bermuda Race, which starts today off Newport, Rhode Island.
The 184-boat international fleet is the third largest in the race’s 104-year history, with nearly 2,000 sailors making the 635-mile passage across the Gulf Stream to the finish off St. David’s Head, Bermuda.
The race should take two to three days for the larger boats, over 80 feet long, and four to six days for the smaller ones of 33 to 40 feet.
“We expect a fine afternoon sea breeze of 10 to 15 knots to get the boats out into the Atlantic,” said Bjorn Johnson, chairman of the Bermuda Race Organizing Committee. “It may get lighter as the boats sail out into the Atlantic, but there will be a strong favorable current in a Gulf Stream meander carrying the boats toward Bermuda.”
The 184-boat fleet is divided into five divisions, the largest of which is the St. David’s Lighthouse Division, with 103 boats, for predominately amateur racing crews.
If the two-time defending champion, Peter S. Rebovich’s Sinn Fein, wins her third straight St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy, she will tie a record set in 1954-60 by Carleton Mitchell’s Finisterre.
The Cruiser Division is the second largest with 39 boats. Its winner will receive a prize carrying Mitchell’s and Finisterre’s names. Professional racing crews compete in the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division (13 boats) for a trophy named for Bermuda’s tallest lighthouse. Three boats with cant keels and other innovations will race in the Open Division for the Royal Mail Trophy. There also is the 26-entry Double-Handed Division for boats sailed by just two sailors. They sail for the Phillip S. Weld Prize and Moxie Prizes. In addition, the top boat in the IRC rule standings will receive the North Rock Beacon Trophy.
The race for first to finish will very likely be between the largest boats in the fleet, the 99-foot Speedboat in the Open Division and the 90-foot Rambler in the Gibbs Hill Division.