Weekend of fun with Spirit of Bermuda Rally
Visitors will enjoy Bermuda’s waters this month as the island hosts a series of sailing and fishing events starting today.
The inaugural three-day Spirit of Bermuda Rally and Festival of Sail is scheduled to begin with the arrival of four US yachts today, with a total of 22 crew members.
The yachts will compete against the Spirit of Bermuda, the Rising Son and others in the Bermuda Triangle offshore race on Saturday as the East End Mini Yacht Club celebrates its 52nd anniversary.
The event will continue on Sunday with the Festival of Sail in St George’s, which will feature pilot gig, Comet and Bermuda Fitted Dinghy races.
The organisers said the Covid-19 pandemic had disrupted the original plans, but they were determined the races would go ahead.
Alan Burland of the Bermuda Sloop Foundation said the Bermuda Rally was intended to showcase not only the foundation’s Spirit of Bermuda sail training ship, but also the young people who benefited from the programme.
He added: “We would love for everyone to come out and meet these wonderful people.
“It’s worrying to us that our budget was cut by two thirds post-Covid by the Ministry of Education.
“We have a big hill to climb, so we want to showcase the programme and what it means for Bermuda and hopefully in the process, we will showcase Bermuda as an oasis in the ocean, a safe haven for people to come to, be they tourists or business people.”
Mr Burland said the idea for the event came in March and was scheduled for June, but the date had to be pushed back because of the pandemic.
He added: “Obviously, the phased lifting has helped us, but there were a lot of issues we had to address.
“When we pushed it into July, we pushed it further into hurricane season so the insurance premiums went up and the number of boats that were interested waned because of that.”
Mr Burland said that he had hoped to have more boats involved but pointed out that the predecessor to the Newport Bermuda Race started with only three vessels.
He added that international sailors were keen to return to Bermuda in the wake of Covid-19.
Mr Burland said: “The visiting yachts said they wanted to get out of the house and get their boats overboard.
“The discussions then were they would sail around Bermuda — they needed somewhere to go, but they weren’t going to stop. That’s how eager they were.
“They love Bermuda, they love going to sea, and I’m certain we are going to see a big uptick in numbers next year.”
Mark Clarke, of the East End Mini Yacht Club, said the event has a special place in his heart.
The event will celebrate the anniversary of the EEMYC and the trophy for the rally was named in honour of his late father, Colin Clarke.
Mr Clarke said the trophy at first belonged to the late Warren Brown, who won it with War Baby in a 2003 competition.
He added: “It was very emotional, but the irony is that War Baby will be here this weekend under the name Isbjorn. We didn’t know that until the day before yesterday.
“So War Baby comes back home, the rededicated trophy was won by War Baby in Italy, and his nephew is a product of Spirit of Bermuda and a pilot for marine and ports.
“There’s a lot of symbolism and a lot of history tied to everything.”
Mr Clarke said strict safety measures would be enforced for the event, but spectators would be able to view the races from St George’s, St David’s or from their own boats.
He added: “Anyone who comes to the club can expect us to be very vigilant and very safe.”
Even more visitors are expected to arrive in Bermuda next week for the launch of the Bermuda Triple Crown — a trio of fishing events between July 15 and 26.
Dan Jacobs, one of the organisers, said competitive fishermen were also keen to return to the island and early indications suggest the fishing would be good.
He added: “We want to be in Bermuda and there was great passion from our participants and our staff to continue the fine tradition.
“We hung in there with the BTA and the Ministry of Health and just kept navigating and communicating. We probably had 1,000 man hours in communicating.
“Then, about two weeks ago, we had official notice of the protocols and it is cumbersome, but we have some intrepid participants that still wanted to come.
“We just need a little good weather and a little good luck.”
Mr Jacobs said this year’s event was organised with coronavirus safety in mind.
But he added: “The great thing about boats is you are socially distant. The guys on the boats stay on the boats and are not around anyone else.
“They get to enjoy what they love to do and that’s go fishing and try to have some fun.”
But Mr Jacobs said the traditional awards banquet would not be held for health reasons.
He added: “A lot of our game boats are already here, they are already following protocol, getting tested and fishing — and the bites have been pretty good, so anybody that’s not in Bermuda is going to miss it.”
Glenn Jones, the interim Bermuda Tourism Authority chief executive, said six international fishing boats were expected for the “condensed” competition series, along with two superyachts.
Mr Jones added: “If we make all the anglers who are not here jealous, than we have done our job.
“Let’s strive for that, and do it safely.”
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