Bermuda Fitted Dinghy Race
Held between May and September on various set dates, Bermuda Fitted Dinghy Race has been an active and a popular sports in the island since 1880s. This is probably the only sail boat race in the world where the captains of the boats are allowed to let the crewmen jump off the boat and finish the race with lesser number of crew than when they started :-). This helps making the boat lighter and to pick up speed.
The dinghies in Bermuda have been adapted from the British rowing dinghies or the skiffs. Bermudians used such skiffs as water transport for many years to get from one place to the other.
The present design of the dinghies were developed by the British Army and Royal Navy in late 1800s. They organized the first dinghy race in Bermuda in 1853 which was held in St. George and was called the St. George Regatta. Entry fee those days was 10 shillings, and four pound sterling were given as the prize money to the first two dinghies crossing the finishing line.
The first formal fitted dinghy race in Bermuda started in August 1880. There were different types of small boats used in different classes. And the dinghies were restricted to amateur crews. It was decided that the maximum length of the dinghy would be restricted to 14 feet.
All dinghies would have 40 foot masts and over 1000 feet of sail. In 1882, the Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Association was formed. This association finally became the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club that organizes the fitted dinghy race.
The Bermuda Fitted Dinghy Race is essentially a club sport and the competition takes place between various yacht clubs in Bermuda. The clubs that usually participate in the fitted dinghy races in Bermuda are:
The Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club
The St. George's Dinghy and Sports Club, and
There are set dates between May and September when the races take place in a variety of locations including Hamilton harbor, St. George's Harbor, Granaway Deep and Mangrove Bay.
The dinghies sail along windward leeward courses in multiple legs and finish windward. The boats, although small, start with six crew members each. They are master sailors who try to improvise in order to survive and keep the boat afloat. The captain can order any of them to jump off the boat in order to gain speed.
While the boats do move fast, they often get dismasted and sunk resulting in a hilarious sight. Talented seamanship and luck finally make a boat win.
It's quite difficult to say which would be the vantage points to watch the race from shore since the racing course depends on the wind direction. If it's held in St. George
and like in most days the breeze is from south-west to south-east, the good spots can be the Penos Wharf
and Somers Wharf
Contacts for further info
The Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club, Mangroville
26 Pomander Road, Paget, PG 05, Bermuda