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