Adventurous Use of the Sea: The Cruising Club of America

Racing to Bermuda

Since 1923, the CCA has managed a challenging 635 mile ocean race

The Cruising Club of America reestablished the Bermuda Race in 1923. Previous races had been sailed in 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, and 1910. Since 1926, the CCA and Royal Bermuda Yacht Club have collaborated to organize the race.

Newport Bermuda Race Winners. There are now five divisions (amateur, professional, cruiser, doublehanded, and open). Although there is no official overall winner, the winner of the St. David’s Lighthouse Division, the largest division (for boats with amateur helmsmen), is regarded as the top boat in the fleet.

Newport Bermuda Race Winners

From 1923 to 1934 it was a 660-mile race from New London to Bermuda (except in 1932 when the start was off Montauk and the race was 628 miles). Since 1936 it has been a 635-mile race from Newport to Bermuda (except in 1970 when an extra leg made it 679 miles). No races were held during World War II.

All Newport Bermuda Race entries are monohull boats between approximately 35 and 100 feet in length overall. A number of rating rules have been used to handicap the race, including several developed wholly or in part by the CCA and its members: the CCA Rule, the Measurement Handicap System (MHS), the International Measurement System (IMS), and today’s Offshore Racing Rule. (The International Offshore Rule (IOR) was also observed for a time.)

This list includes the number of boats starting the race, the winning boat, and the owner/skipper of the winning boat.

1923, 22 starters, Malabar IV, John G. Alden
1924, 14 starters, Memory, Robert N. Bavier
1926, 16 starters, Malabar VII, John G. Alden
1928, 25 starters, Rugosa II, Russell Grinnell
1930, 42 starters, Malay, Raymond W. Ferris
1932, 27 starters, Malabar X, John G. Alden
1934, 29 starters, Edlu, Rudolph J. Schaefer
1936, 44 starters, Kirawan, Robert P. Baruch
1938, 38 starters, Baruna, Henry C. Taylor
1946, 31 starters, Gesture, A. Howard Fuller
1948, 36 starters, Baruna, Henry C. Taylor
1950, 59 starters, Argyll, William T. Moore
1952, 58 starters, Carina, Richard S. Nye
1954, 77 starters, Malay, Daniel D. Strohmeier
1956, 89 starters, Finisterre, Carleton Mitchell
1958, 111 starters, Finisterre, Carleton Mitchell
1960, 131 starters, Finisterre, Carleton Mitchell
1962, 131 starters, Niña, DeCoursey Fales
1964, 143 starters, Burgoo, Milton Ernstof
1966, 167 starters, Thunderbird, T. Vincent Learson
1968, 152 starters, Robin, Ted Hood
1970, 152 starters, Carina, Richard S. Nye
1972, 178 starters, Noryema IV, Ron W. Amey
1974, 166 starters, Scaramouche, Charles E. Kirsch
1976, 150 starters, Running Tide, A. G. VanMetre
1978, 161 starters, IOR, Acadia, Burt H. Keenan; MHS, Babe, Arnold C. Gay
1980, 160 starters, MHS, Holger Danske, Richard Wilson
1982, 178 starters, IOR, Carina, Richard B. Nye; MHS, Brigadoon III, Robert W. Morton
1984, 115 starters, IOR, Merrythought, Jack King; IMS, Pamir, Francis H. Curren Jr.
1986, 125 starters, IOR, Silver Star, D. H. Clarke; IMS, Puritan, Donald P. Robinson
1988, 120 starters, IOR, Congere, Beven Koeppel; IMS, Cannonball, Charles A. Robertson
1990, 145 starters, IMS, Denali, Lawrence S. Huntington
1992, 117 starters, Constellation, U. S. Naval Academy
1994, 149 starters, Gaylark, Kaighn Smith
1996, 145 starters, Boomerang, George Coumantaros
1998, 162 starters, Kodiak, E. Llwyd Ecclestone
2000, 175 starters, Restless, E. E. Crawford
2002, 182 starters, Racing, Blue Yankee, Robert Towse; Cruiser/Racer, Zaraffa, Huntington Sheldon
2004, 156 starters, Racing, Rosebud, Roger Sturgeon; Cruiser/Racer, Alliance, Dominick Porco
2006, 263 starters, Sinn Fein, Peter S. Rebovich Sr.
2008, 197 starters, Sinn Fein, Peter S. Rebovich Sr.
2010, 183 starters, Carina, A. Rives Potts
2012, 164 starters, Carina, A. Rives Potts

More, from the Newport Bermuda Race website »

Start of 1950 Bermuda Race
Inspired by the Bermuda and Transpacific yacht races of the early 1900s, the Cruising Club of America revived the Bermuda Race in 1923. Jointly organized by the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, the biennial Newport-Bermuda Race is one of the world’s premier ocean races.
Start of 1950 Bermuda RaceView full-size image

Pavane passes the spectator boat at the start of the 1950 Bermuda Race

The course runs 635 miles almost entirely out of sight of land from Newport, Rhode Island, across the Gulf Stream, to the finish off St. David’s Lighthouse. The typical fleet has more than 170 monohull boats between 35 and 100 feet in length. The centennial race in 2006 drew 263 boats.

Nicknamed “the thrash to the Onion Patch,” the race usually includes demanding wind and sea conditions. Its safety record is exemplary due to the rigorous rules and the respect that its sailors have for the sea. For many sailors, the most coveted prize in long-distance racing is the St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy, awarded to the winning boat with an amateur crew in every Newport-Bermuda Race.

St. David's Lighthouse Trophy
St. David's Lighthouse Trophy
St. David's Lighthouse TrophyView full-size image

St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy

St. David’s Lighthouse overlooks the finish line of the race. From the 1950s through 2000, a replica trophy was usually awarded to the overall winner. Recently it has been awarded to the winner of the St. David’s Lighthouse Division, the largest division in the race and one reserved for mostly amateur crews. Over the years it has been won by boats as small as 38 feet in overall length and as large as 84 feet.

This is the trophy awarded to Don Robinson (a longtime Mystic Seaport administrator) when he and his six crew members won the IMS division of the race with his sloop Puritan in 1986.

“I suggest that we consider an event to be a race only when it is sailed between the ports of two or more countries.”

Henry A. Wise Wood, 1923
E. Stuart Peck prize 1950
Silver cigarette box awarded to Rod Stephens and Mustang. 2nd place in Class B in the 1950 Newport Bermuda Race.
E. Stuart Peck prize 1950View full-size image

E. Stuart Peck prize

Representing the mores of the time, this silver cigarette box was awarded to Rod Stephens and Mustang as the E. Stuart Peck prize for taking second place in Class B in the 1950 Newport Bermuda Race.

Rod Stephens’s New York 32 Mustang at dawn near the finish line at Bermuda, 1946.
Rod Stephens’s New York 32 Mustang at dawn near the finish line at Bermuda, 1946.
Rod Stephens’s New York 32 Mustang at dawn near the finish line at Bermuda, 1946.View full-size image

Roderick Stephens and Mustang

Olin Stephens’s younger brother Rod was a master of sailboat rigs, hardware, and handling. A long-time CCA member, he often won his class in Newport Bermuda Races and received a Blue Water Medal for his distant voyaging in Dorade and other boats.

This photo shows Rod Stephens’s New York 32 Mustang (designed by his brother Olin) at dawn near the finish line at Bermuda, 1946. Rod (far left) and Olin (at rail, third from left) finished this race second in Class B. Rod owned Mustang (built as Revonoc in 1936) from 1946 to 1969.

Bigelow Memorial Trophy 1952
Clock awarded to Rod Stephens and Mustang as the Bigelow Memorial Trophy for winning Class B in the 1952 race.
Bigelow Memorial Trophy 1952View full-size image

Bigelow Memorial Trophy

This Chelsea ship’s bell clock was awarded to Rod Stephens and Mustang as the Bigelow Memorial Trophy for winning Class B in the 1952 race.

Start of 2012 Bermuda race
Start of the 2012 Bermuda race.
Start of 2012 Bermuda raceView full-size image

2012 Bermuda race

Start of Class 10 off Newport, with Titan XV, Beau Geste, Rambler, Belle Mente, and Ran.

PPL Photo Agency—Copyright Reserved; Daniel Forster/PPL
Il Mostro off St. David's Light
Finish of 2012 Bermuda Race
Il Mostro off St. David's LightView full-size image

Finish of 2012 Bermuda Race

Il Mostro off St. David’s Lighthouse, 2010.

PPL Photo Agency—Copyright Reserved; Barry Pickthall/PPL