A Berth to Bermuda: One Hundred Years of the World's Classic Ocean Race

Book CoverWhen it was first sailed in 1906, the Bermuda Race made the sea a playground by creating a new sport—ocean racing by amateur sailors in normal boats. Sponsored by the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, the race is now so glamorous that sailors’ ears perk up when it is mentioned, so difficult that participants ask themselves “Why am I out here again?” and so addictive that they keep coming back for this every-other-year event. In this lavish, heavily illustrated book, yachting historian (and Bermuda Racer) John Rousmaniere tells the story of the remarkable sailors, the great boats, the tactics, the Gulf Stream ordeal, and the lure of Bermuda that make this the world’s classic ocean race.

Honoring the centennial of the Bermuda Race, writer, historian, and multirace veteran John Rousmaniere tells its remarkable story in A Berth to Bermuda: 100 Years of the World’s Classic Ocean Race. This large format, beautifully printed book features hundreds of magnificent photos, many exciting tales of boats and sailors, a colorful account of the race’s controversial creation, a fascinating roster of race trivia and records, and an intimate perspective on the famous “thrash to the Onion Patch.”

“A centennial feast. This at once concise and very thorough history of the race by the prolific John Rousmaniere could well become a classic in its own right. It’s precisely the sort of book that sailors with a yen for luscious photography, elegant prose, and tales of the distant and not so distant past can happily get lost in time and time again. . . . Both a grand entertainment and an invaluable resource for aficionados of the sport of ocean racing, as well as anyone else who loves to read about sailboats generally and the development of sailboat racing in particular.” – Sail magazine

“Thoroughly enjoyable. Even if sailing doesn’t fascinate you, it will remind you how nice Bermuda is. For sailors, it is full of great stuff on racing history, the evolution of boats and sails, technology, navigational aids, hair-raising storm stories, and, best of all, swell pictures. . . . I thoroughly enjoyed it from cover to cover.” – Greenwich (CT) Time

Excerpts from A Berth to Bermuda

Tamerlane, 1906. “By 6 a.m. we were clear of the Gulf Stream, which place, I am under the impression, might be improved upon. I really enjoyed it, only I thought it would be kind of nice to be dry again for a change.”

Finisterre, 1956-60. In the vast firmament of sailing records, the polestar is the one set by this tubby little yawl. It is hard enough to win one Bermuda Race. But two in a row? Three? Carleton Mitchell sometimes credited blind luck. When Dick Nye, the 1952 and 1970 winner, was asked how Mitchell won so often, he replied, “For one thing, she’s got everything. And he sails the hell out of her.”

Navigators. “There was always trouble coming into Bermuda,” said Larry Glenn. “Someone would ask you, ‘Where are we?’ and you’d have to say, ‘I don’t know,’ and then he’d say, ‘Well, I’m going to sleep with my feet forward in case we run into the reef.’”

Niña, 1962. Winner DeCoursey Fales embodied all the ceremonial, companionable, and competitive threads that are the warp and the woof of the Bermuda Race. Once through Two Rock Passage and securely tied up, Fales, like Mr. Fezziwig on Christmas Eve, called his boys below for a gathering that was less a party than a ritual. It was founded on the principle that while any other race is merely a race, a Bermuda Race is a voyage and any decent voyage can end only with the crew communing over drinks.

Pyewacket, 2002. The fleet found itself in a 400 mile arm of southbound current. When the northeast wind gave way to a 25 to 30 knot southwesterly blowing right into the teeth of this phenomenon, the sea was of the sort that Erroll Bruce referred to as “a mass of separate steep crests, each moving independently, and breaking haphazardly.” Pyewacket suffered no damage, but there was great discomfort. “You would not have wanted to be on the boat,” owner Roy Disney somberly informed journalists after the finish.

Year Published: 

2006

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