In 1975, W. David Kingery was very busy with various sailing activities. He was a member of the Beverly Yacht Club, on the Board of Governors of the Blue Water Sailing Club, and interested in doing a single-handed race from England to Newport. To qualify for the race, David chose to do a single-handed voyage to Bermuda and on this trip was struck with the concept of organizing a race to Bermuda for cruising yachts and family sailors.
Having successfully completed the Bermuda trip, he discussed his idea with Dickie Bird of the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club and then with Leo Fallon, Commodore of the Blue Water Sailing Club, and with various members of the Beverly Yacht Club. Support was promised from all three clubs, and the 1977 Marion-Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race began with supporting clubs at each end and an additional staff of enthusiastic volunteers from the Blue Water Sailing Club.
The first Marion-Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race in 1977 saw 104 starters cross the line. The going was slow in light southwesterly winds and most of the expectant officials at the finish line thought CHEE CHEE would cross first. But her position was not accurate and SILKIE appeared to take line honors, first on corrected time and first short-handed.
The next race in 1979 saw 128 starters plunging into 25-knot southwesterly winds. The struggle with nature caused two dismastings and 14 DNFS.
In 1981, 143 yachts crossed the starting line. Not far into the race, the wind picked up and by halfway had turned into 45 knots of howling trouble. Thirty-eight 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. Fifteen others were so late finishing that the Race Committee was not at St. David’s to take their time.
The start of the 1989 Race suffered several postponements due to the lack of adequate wind. However, once the race was underway, one hundred and sixty-three vessels, the biggest fleet in the history of the Marion-Bermuda Race, cleared the starting line and headed for that pleasant rendezvous in Bermuda. On Monday, Warren Brown’s WAR BABY of Bermuda crossed the finish line after 72 1/2 hours at sea, breaking the previous record.
Corrected time honors went to John Elliot’s 34 foot Class F sloop YUKON JACK, followed closely by BWSC Commodore Jim Hayes’ 40 foot Class E sloop SHAMBLES.
Entries for the 1991 race were down from the record ’89 fleet, probably reflecting the recession. However, on June 21st one hundred seventeen vessels cleared the starting line without incident on a beautiful day headed for Bermuda. Coincident with the fleet entering the Gulf Stream was the arrival of a storm from the northeast, purportedly having a radius of some 300 miles. With winds gusting to near hurricane force, the stream quickly became a maelstrom of confused seas running between thirty and forty feet. After struggling through many hours of hell, the fleet emerged from the stream into relatively quiet waters. A tribute to the preparations and seamanship of the participants was the fact that there were no major mishaps.
The dawn of June 15, 1993 brought another beautiful day in Marion, heralding the start of the ninth Marion-Bermuda Race. However, by the time one hundred and fifteen entries had arrived at the starting area, the typical Buzzards Bay Sou’wester had kicked in with winds estimated to be twenty to thirty knots. In addition, the entire Bay was shrouded in thick fog. Aside from a two vessel collision requiring the retirement of both vessels, the Race Committee, through Herculean efforts, was able to send the fleet on to Bermuda without further incident.
The fleet’s passage down Buzzards Bay tested the navigational skills and the mettle of all participants. Several groundings and near misses were reported, but by nightfall all had cleared Sow and Pigs. The passage through the Gulf Stream and on to Bermuda presented a near idyllic sail, from all reports.
On Monday evening the Bermuda vessel, ALPHIDA, skippered by Kirk Cooper repeated its 1991 performance, claiming line honors. However, this year in spite of light winds off Bermuda, ALPHIDA set a new Marion-Bermuda course record for the shorter course. WAR BABY still holds the record for the long course.
June 16, 1995 marked the tenth running of the Marion-Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race. Seventy-seven entries cleared the starting line in perfect weather for a fast sail down Buzzards Bay. Two vessels, however, experienced rigging problems and were forced in for repairs. By dusk, all the racers had cleared the bay and were headed for the Gulf Stream.
Upon arrival at the Gulf Stream, the conditions were truly uncharacteristic. For over sixteen hours, a dead calm persisted while the entire fleet drifted off to the east. The arrival of wind found the fleet completely together, leading to the start of a virtually new race for the next three hundred odd miles to St. David’s Head.
Dick Leather’s COLUMBINE crossed the line at 2220 on Tuesday to claim First to Finish honors. Thirty minutes later, Phil Hutchinson’s VERITAS reached the line. In the succeeding twenty-four hours, the entire fleet roared into Bermuda ready to partake of the hospitality and the festivities.
On corrected time, Carter Cordner’s Westsail 32, KEMANCHA, claimed the overall winner’s trophy denying Ron Noonan’s WILDFLOWER a "hat trick" by less than thirty minutes.
We here at YB tracking are extatic to be providing tracking once again for this well established race. Each participating yacht will have a YB tracker installed before the race. The trackers collect and then transmit several items of data, such as speed, direction and GPS position, through the Iridium satellite network to our servers. Once there this information is visualised onto our raceplayer for friends, family and race organisers left on solid ground to follow the race.
For more information please visit the race website.