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A slice of Marion Bermuda Race history

by C. Barnes Davis on 26 Feb 2014
2013 Marion Bermuda Race ©SpectrumPhoto/Fran Grenon
Learn about the history of the Marion Bermuda Race which began in 1977 with 104 starters on the line.

I was 19 years old in the summer of 1977 and crewed aboard Abraxas in the first Marion to Bermuda yacht race. I had lots of coastwise experience cruising, as well as some offshore experience aboard the Tabor Boy, including a passage to Bermuda, but this was my first blue water yacht race. It was fate.

I received a call early in the morning on the day of the race from a friend of mine who was operating the launch at the Beverly Yacht Club. He informed me that one of the boats, Abraxas, had lost a crewmember due to a family emergency. He suggested if I wanted to race I had better get to Marion right away. I put some gear in a bag, left a note for my parents, and drove the 30 miles from my home in Duxbury to Marion as fast as I could. When I arrived at the Yacht Club, I hopped on the clubs launch my friend was running and he took me straight out to Abraxas. She looked fine to me from the launch; engine running, jib hanked on, crew busy preparing for her imminent departure. As the launch came alongside, I asked if they were still looking for crew. The owner and mate came to the rail and asked me what experience I had. In hindsight, it might have been prudent of me to ask the same of them - but I was young and eager to get to sea. They invited me aboard, and before I could stow my bag I was already casting off the mooring pendant!

I learned a lot of things on that race, as well as the return passage. I learned that it is always best to shorten sail when you first think about it. In the stream, we blew out our two largest jibs. I learned how to sail bare pole with the wind on the quarter in the dead of night; listening to the sea approach from astern and the wind singing in the rigging. I learned that if the oven door is not secured properly, the white metal hinges will snap off. I learned that you should prepare something other than just casseroles for an offshore passage. I learned that a storm jib is worthless when approaching the Bermuda high; lots of red and green lights astern of us became white lights ahead of us. I learned that I love Bermuda, but a race isn't just about the destination.

I have been fortunate to participate in a few Marion to Bermuda and Newport/ Bermuda races over the years and hope to do it again in Event Website

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