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In person or online: How to watch the start of the Newport Bermuda Race

by John Burnham 9 Jun 2018 07:06 PDT 15 June 2018
In a northerly breeze, the fleet starts under colorful spinnakers as it did in 2012 with modern boats lined up next to the white sails of Black Watch, which celebrates its 80th season with the 2108 race - Newport Bermuda Race © Talbot Wilson

If you are not one of the 1500+ sailors wrapping up preparations for the start of the 51st Newport Bermuda Race on Friday, June 15, 2018, then you have less than a week to plan how to watch one of the greatest sailing spectacles held on Narragansett Bay. 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, testing the abilities of sailors as they cross the cold waters of the continental shelf, the rough and squally Gulf Stream, and, finally, the warmer waters on the approaches to Bermuda.

The start will be officiated by the New York Yacht Club Race Committee from onboard the 105-foot classic yacht, Whitehawk. The warning gun will be fired at 1:00 p.m. for the first of seven divisions of racing boats which range from 32.5-112 feet in length. The division to which a boat is assigned depends on many factors, including the size of the boat, the number of crew, the complement of professional and amateur sailors aboard, and whether the boat is equipped to sail under spinnaker.

A visit to the Goat Island Marina, Newport Shipyard or the docks along the Newport waterfront will allow sailing fans to see the boats prior to June 15. On race day, with the start close to land, there are numerous public shoreside areas from which to picnic and watch. The northern end of Fort Adams State Park is ideal for observing the 171 boats depart Newport Harbor; once they start jockeying for position in the East Passage of Narragansett Bay, the west side of Fort Adams and Brenton Point State Park, along with Jamestown's Fort Wetherill and Beavertail State Parks will provide excellent vantage points.

The starting line itself will be located between a yellow buoy near Castle Hill Light and a staff displaying a flag aboard Whitehawk which will be anchored near mid-channel. Nearest to the starting line is the famous Castle Hill Inn with its sloping waterfront lawn. (Note the Inn charges for parking and asks that you not bring food or drink.) If there are no weather delays, the spectacle will last roughly two hours.

If you choose to go on the water, note that kayaks, paddleboards, canoes and small inflatables are strongly discouraged due to congestion and choppy water.

Virtual Spectating

Online spectators will have front row seats for the action via Facebook Live where Nic Douglass, host of Adventures of a Sailor Girl, will share interviews with crews and the race committee in the hour before the start, as well as commentary on each class as it gets underway between 1:00 and 3:30 p.m. A wrap-up show will air at 6:00 p.m. EDT. To watch the live feed—or view it later—visit Newport Bermuda Race or Adventures of a Sailor Girl on Facebook.

Online spectators can get additional real time information through the Pantaenius Race Tracker, and on Twitter and Instagram. A detailed explanation and map of the starting area, as well as the links to all the social media platforms, are conveniently found here bermudarace.com/resources/spectator-resources Spectators can join competitors in contributing to the event by using #BermudaRace.

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