Rayner retires as Newport Race finish line committee chairman
This year's Newport Bermuda Race marks the end of an era.
Since 2003, Eugene Rayner, 73, has served as chairman of the race's finish line committee with great pride.
But, after serving in the role for just over a decade, the former ZFB programme director has decided enough is enough and plans to retire after the 49th Newport Bermuda Race is in the history books.
“I have mixed feelings,” Mr Rayner said of his pending retirement. “I have been involved since 1984.
“I am a Ham Radio operator and that's how I got involved and from being a Ham Radio operator I went onto be in charge of communications.”
Nearly two decades later Mr Rayner became chairman of the finish line committee which is an integral part of the Newport Bermuda Race and Marion Bermuda Race that are both held biennially.
“Kent Stewart was the previous finish line chairman and he said to me one day ‘let's go lunch',” Mr Rayner recalled. “So we went to lunch and then he said ‘by the way ... here's the file, you're the new chairman'. That's how I became chairman in 2003 for the Marion Bermuda Race.”
Mr Rayner said serving on the finish line committee was a responsibility not to be taken for granted.
“It's a very responsible job because without a finish line it is just another sail,” he said. “If you don't organise it then you are going to have problems because the silver is important to these sailors.
“I remember a couple of years ago there were two navy boats protesting which came first because they were fighting for a piece of silver.
“There was a protest meeting and I had to appear at the meeting and it was like seconds on corrected time that determined the winner.”
Mr Rayner said the most exciting part of the job is waiting inside of the former US Navy watch tower at St David's Lighthouse with great anticipation for the first yacht to cross the finish line.
“It's all fun,” he said. “be it daylight or not.”
Throughout his watch Mr Rayner has seen improvements in technology which in turn has made certain aspects of his job easier.
“Before, Bermuda Radio, would pick the boats up on radar and we would just stay here and wait for the radio to click in the middle of the night saying ‘we're checking in',” he recalled.
“But this year, for the first time, the boats have AIS radios (tracking beacons) which they turn on five miles out and we can see them through one of the computers upstairs in the watch tower or on a cell phone.
“Years ago we had none of that, we just sat there and waited. Now I don't stay down here, I go home because of the advances in technology.”