Marion Bermuda Race co-founder Bird fondly remembered
in Marion, Massachusetts
The legacy of Marion Bermuda Race co-founder Geoffrey (Dickie) Bird was observed during the Bermuda Welcome Dinner at Beverly Yacht Club.
A plaque bearing a photo and name of the late Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club (RHADC) Commodore and his counterpart David Kingery (Beverly Yacht Club) was unveiled during the well attended gathering.
The plaque is to be put on permanent display at the Beverly Yacht Club in Marion which jointly hosts the biennial race along with the RHADC and Blue Water Sailing Club.
The late Dickie Bird and Kingery, who is also deceased, met at the RHADC and from that friendship sprang the Marion Bermuda Race that was first held in 1977.
“It’s been Dickie and David Kingery’s race ever since,” said RHADC Commodore Alan Williams, who was among those in attendance at Wednesday’s gathering. “This is the 19th race and one way or the other there has always been recognition of both David Kingery and Dickie Bird.”
Williams said a similar ceremony will be held at RHADC once all the yachts in this year’s Marion Bermuda Race fleet reach the Island’s shores.
“On the final night of the prize-giving in Bermuda we have an identical plaque that we are going to present in the same manner,” he said.
Williams had the distinction of sailing on board the late Mr Bird’s 34ft yacht
Water Gipsy in the inaugural Marion Bermuda Race.
Unfortunately, though, the experience didn’t last very long as Mr Bird’s yacht collided with another boat (
Salty Dog) and was forced to retire.
“We were beating out of Buzzards Bay doing about 20 knots and unfortunately after about an hour of racing we had a collision,” Mr Williams recalled. “We were going well and then collided with another boat that hit us on port tack.”
Mr Bird’s yacht was heavily damaged in the mishap while the other boat involved went on to complete the race.
“We had a bridled style backstay and we’d broke one half of that and damaged the combing of the cockpit and what have you,” Mr Williams said. “I actually jumped to go overboard on the windward side of the boat but after we hit I landed back where I had jumped from — the boat was moved that much.
“We had to retire from the race which was unfortunately an unsuccessful start. It all happened so quickly and we just didn’t have a chance. It was extremely disappointing and unfortunate because I was actually driving the boat at the time.”
Mr Williams said the boat’s distinguished captain, Mr Bird, took matters all in stride.
“Dickie Bird was a true gentleman,” he added. “It was too bad this happened because Dickie was the founder and was there front and centre with his boat and Bermuda team to do the first race and we were looking forward to it.”
Aside from sailing, Mr Bird, who served in the Royal Navy as a carrier-based pilot, is perhaps best known as the engineer who oversaw the renovation of the former Hamilton Princess Hotel and constructed the Bird Cage on Front Street.
He was born in England and after serving in the Second World War moved to Bermuda where he lived for more than half a century prior to his death in 2011 at the age of 89.