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Non-Mariners Race cancelled

The Non-Mariners Race has been a popular annual event in Mangrove Bay since the 1970s (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The voice of the axed Non-Mariners Race said he hoped the event could be refloated in the future.

Bruce Barritt, emcee for the event for 30 years, explained: “Hopefully some other group will want to resuscitate it, whether it’s this year or next year.

“It’s up to a group of individuals who have some energy and dedication.”

Mr Barritt said he was told late last week that this year’s race had been cancelled.

He added it was possible that the news might create a “groundswell” of grassroots support.

He said: “There may very well be an independent group — whether from the West End, or the East End, or even from Dockyard — who might say ‘This is too much fun, we don’t want to give it up’.

“Everything has life cycles — perhaps this is a chance for someone else to take it over. This may actually galvanise a new generation of non-mariners.”

Sandys Boat Club confirmed the cancellation of the event in a statement issued yesterday.

A spokesman for the club said fewer entries, a change in the economics of the event, and a shortage of volunteers to organise and run the race were behind the decision.

Mr Barritt accepted the club’s reasons were “pretty valid”.

He said: “If you don’t get participation — people making the effort to put something together and float it out and do something — then there isn’t an event.”

He added the cancellation “probably doesn’t matter much to 85 to 90 per cent” of raft-up participants in Mangrove Bay.

Mr Barritt said: “Their eyes are all towards the next boat or on the horizon. They’re not much looking at the shoreline where the non-race is.”

Mr Barritt said finding volunteers for the event had always been a challenge.

He said: “When the people from the boat club say it’s harder and harder to find volunteers to assist — yeah, I’ve seen that first-hand.”

Sandys Boat Club said the cancellation included the race as well as the other events like a “non-penguin fly-by” and a “non-calypso pipe band and dancers”.

But the raft-up parties in Mangrove Bay will go ahead as usual.

The club spokesman thanked the Bermuda Tourism Authority for its offer of assistance.

He said the club hoped that the event will be revived with the BTA’s assistance.

A spokesman for the BTA confirmed that the club had contacted the organisation about problems with the organisation of this year’s event.

He said: “The BTA offered to connect the boat club’s leadership with potential sponsors — not only because of the charitable mission of the event, but also because the event is a part of our event-marketing brochures for visitors.

“In the end, Non-Mariners Race organisers decided to scrap the event before we could make any connections.”

The spokesman said that the BTA had not offered to sponsor the event.

He added: “While it’s unfortunate to see the event cancelled and for local charities to miss out on this fundraising opportunity, we’re confident the other traditions on the Sunday after Cup Match will continue — providing visitors with a truly Bermudian celebration.”

Johnny Peacock, of Mariners rugby club, said he and the club had backed the event for many years. He added: “I think it’s sad in general.”

Mr Peacock said that club members had already started discussions about this year’s event. But he added: “There’s never really a lot of planning involved.”

Mr Peacock said that a decision on a theme for the club’s race entry was usually made up to two weeks before the event.

He added: “It’s just a good laugh. It’s one of those things that become tradition. It’s what you do every year.”

Non-Mariners was first held in the early 1960s in Hamilton Harbour.

It later moved to St George’s and Ferry Reach before it settled on Mangrove Bay in 1972 and grew over the years.

The boat club spokesman said charities like Bermuda Sailors Home, the Bermuda Sloop Foundation, and the St John Ambulance service had benefited from the event.

He added the event had “not been of financial benefit to the club in many years”.

Anyone interested in helping run the event should contact the Sandys Boat Club secretary at sbcsecretary@logic.bm