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Crazy crafts set sail for Non-Mariners Race

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Bermuda's celebration of maritime eccentricity and makeshift sailing cast off for its 43rd year from Mangrove Bay, Sandys, closing the Cup Match holiday in typical style.

“It's the usual non-crazy event,” deadpanned Sandys Boat Club Commodore Jaime DeSilva, surveying the crowded waters around the start of the Non-Mariners Race race yesterday

Not many registered, but a dedicated few could be found assembling their boats on the sand yesterday while a flotilla of inflatable craft and visiting vessels massed offshore.

The colourful bash, with plentiful libations to assist with improvised boatbuilding, reminded visitor Kathy Rible of “a Jimmy Buffet concert”, she told The Royal Gazette.

The novice non-mariner was visiting from Boston with her mother and brother, Sue and Ted Knowles, plus daughters Ashleidh and Kyra.

The family had been invited by the Bermuda Arts Centre in Dockyard to paint the Wild Chicken entry float. “The Non-Mariners Race always allows people to get creative,” said arts centre administrator Heidi Cowen, as the tribute to “Bermuda's unofficial national bird” tested the water. “It's a real joint effort.”

A Brazilian contingent was reportedly in attendance, with their own inflatable brought from home, joining Jereme Ramsay of the Bermuda Business Development Agency.

Irreverence rather than seaworthiness is a prerequisite for the non-race, which invariably works in references to current politics.

Mariners Rugby Club didn't disappoint, with a float plastered with a year's worth of in-jokes: the Non-Hamilton Waterfront; the Non-St George's Rejuvenation Plan; Non-Mammograms, and “Bean's Casino Tencent Slots”.

“We had so many non-ideas, we decided to use all of them,” one said.

The team from the cable ship in Dockyard, also Non-Mariner's regulars, have appeared in various guises with “Castaway” as the theme.

This year's vessel, put together from Carley float inflatable life rafts, was dubbed Final Castaway: the group remain uncertain of their contract for next year.

“This isn't built on the beach; it's assembled on the beach,” one crew member said. “Other people have been far more adventurous.”

Alex Jones, who has sailed every year since 2004 — minus one — stayed true to the slapdash spirit of the non-race: with barrels from a dumpster outside Bermuda Waterworks for flotation, Mr Jones was dismantling wooden pallets similarly salvaged from trash.

“Last year we marched on the Non-Mariners demanding the judges resign for their obvious corruption,” he said. “This year we've committed to not start the non-race unless Bruce Barritt is no longer the MC.”

With the help of tin foil, Mr Barritt planned to create a high-performance catamaran in tribute to Bermuda's securing of the 2017 America's Cup. Past creations have included Transparent Government and an SOB Refugee Raft.

The Non-Mariner's Race became official at the boat club in 1972, but its origins lie a decade or so further back in a smoky pub readers may recall from Queen Street in Hamilton: the Horse and Buggy.

Over drinks, a group of friends concocted a plan for some weekend fun, and ended up setting off into Hamilton Harbour in a vessel built from a baby carriage.

The rest was history — though Ms DeSilva noted that entry levels have declined over the years.

“Numbers are dwindling,” she said, as small prizes were tossed down from the office to the crowd on the dock below. “We're going to have to do something to get more people.”

• For more images from the Non-Mariners Race, see our photo gallery at the bottom of our home page.

Maritime mayhem: Hundreds of makeshift boats took to the water off Mangrove Bay, Sandys, for the 43rd Non-Mariners Race, with a colourful collection of crews soaking up the sun in a flotilla of crazy creations. Visitors and residents joined in the irreverent fun, where the goal is not to win, but to lose spectacularly (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Sink or Swim: Team Corona are ready to put their craft to the test at Non-Mariners (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
The Bermuda Arts Centre Team pose with their craft 'De Wild Chicken' (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Residents and visitors beat the heat by swimming off Mangrove Bay during Non-Mariners (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Guests on a crammed party boat watch the action at the Non-Mariners Race (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Swimmers beat the heat during Non-Mariners (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Hundreds of makeshift boats took to the water off Mangrove Bay, Sandys, for the 43rd Non-Mariners Race, with a colourful collection of crews soaking up the sun in a flotilla of crazy creations. Visitors and residents joined in the irreverent fun, where the goal is not to win, but to lose spectacularly (Photograph by Blaire Simmons) (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Politically Correct! The Mariners Rugby Club team creatively send a message (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Hundreds of makeshift boats took to the water off Mangrove Bay, Sandys, for the 43rd Non-Mariners Race, with a colourful collection of crews soaking up the sun in a flotilla of crazy creations. Visitors and residents joined in the irreverent fun, where the goal is not to win, but to lose spectacularly (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Karen Simons and Danny Lambert enjoy the shade while watching the action at the Non-Mariners Race (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Hundreds of makeshift boats took to the water off Mangrove Bay, Sandys, for the 43rd Non-Mariners Race, with a colourful collection of crews soaking up the sun in a flotilla of crazy creations. Visitors and residents joined in the irreverent fun, where the goal is not to win, but to lose spectacularly (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published August 03, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 03, 2015 at 9:25 am)

Crazy crafts set sail for Non-Mariners Race

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