The Better Bermuda Race
Published on June 6th, 2019
Meg Reilly is a circumnavigator who runs an international sailing team, Ocean Racers, with her partner Morgen Watson on their Pogo 12.50 Hermes. Meg recently completed the third edition of the 935-mile Antigua Bermuda Race and liked it… here’s her report:
This opinion might get me banned from some clubs, but I’m going to go ahead and say it anyway: Antigua-Bermuda is the better Bermuda Race.
Now, before you reach for the pitchforks and damn my ignorant youth, hear me out. Confession: I’ve never done any of the other Bermuda races, but I’ve done those passages many times and I’ve heard the stories. As a result I have no extreme desire to do any other Bermuda Race, since I am convinced that the Antigua Bermuda is simply the best.
First, no Gulf Stream. I pretty much could just close the argument here, but there are many more benefits than the absence of the Gulf Stream from only one race to Bermuda. Start and finish in Caribbean climate and tradewinds that rarely disappoint, it is almost guaranteed to be an enjoyable race.
The start really cannot be beaten. East Coast sailing towns have their charm, but nothing compares to the rich maritime history of Antigua.
You can almost bank on a breezy upwind start, along a coast lined with tactical coves where you seek lifts from steep cliffs. But the upwind leg lasts as long as you’d want it to, just a few hours of close-quarter racing, then crack off to Bermuda and let her rip.
From there, it’s nothing but smooth sailing. If you have a Code Zero, it’s almost too easy. If you haven’t be blessed with that weapon yet, then you’ll have to bounce between jib reaching and power reaching with the A3 like we did for the first days. The tradewinds provide a powerful but comfortable push towards Bermuda, then the real challenge comes with the looming high.
All Bermuda Races are at some point plagued by the Bermuda High. But we’ve discovered in the last three editions of the Antigua Bermuda Race that there’s a surefire way to get stuck in the high, and a strategic approach to mitigate the damage.
Plus, after a couple of days of champagne sailing from the Caribbean on the same tack since Antigua, the crew usually welcomes the challenge.
The Antigua Bermuda Race is also one of the world’s most convenient ocean races. The scheduling, start and finish locations, are already built into an Atlantic Ocean racing yacht’s schedule, so there’s no reason not to do the race. A class in CSA provides great accessibility to the race, with a motoring time penalty option to appeal to delivery timelines.
The IRC and CSA classes attract an international fleet, which this year included record-seeking Scallywag 100. The event is also part of the Atlantic Ocean Racing Series, a trophy series every four years that includes the world’s top ocean races: the Caribbean 600, The Transatlantic, Rolex Fastnet, and Rolex Middle Sea Race. This edition, the Antigua Bermuda Race was added to the series, placing this young race within a league of legends.
The only thing this race lacks is prestige simply because it doesn’t have the same heritage as the other Bermuda Races. However, in just its third edition, I think it’s earned its credibility as an annual ocean race that is here to stay. The only thing it needs is more boats to add to the great competition within this race. So register for next year!
I may be a bit biased since we’ve done every edition on our Pogo 12.50 Hermes. Especially because we just won 3rd Place in CSA this year. But after taking another amateur crew through our Ocean Racers program and seeing them accomplish a 1000 NM ocean race, I am certain this race is the best. When beginners to professional crews can all enjoyably compete against each other, and we can even beat Team Scallywag (corrected), you know it is a special event.
The third edition of the 935-mile Antigua Bermuda Race started on the May 8 and was organized in association with Antigua Sailing Week and supported by the Bermuda Tourism Authority. The 2019 Atlantic Ocean Racing Series will consist of five races: RORC Caribbean 600, Antigua Bermuda Race, Transatlantic Race 2019, Rolex Fastnet Race, and Rolex Middle Sea Race. Three races, including the Transatlantic Race (weighted 1.5), will be required to qualify.