Changes on the horizon for Marion Bermuda Race

Marion Bermuda Race 2011
The Marion Bermuda Race organization has recently adopted major changes designed to make this biennial offshore yacht race more accessible than ever before. These new initiatives invite broader participation and position the Marion Bermuda Race to remain the prestigious offshore yacht race event that is has been since 1977.

Highlights include:

• Vessel Size Limits increased from 80ft to 100ft LOA
• A New Division with unrestricted sail inventory
• Symmetrical Spinnakers and Spinnaker Poles permitted
• Traditional Sail Training/Classic Yacht Division added

In making this announcement Allan McLean, Executive Director Marion Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race Association said, 'We recognize the sum of these changes is significant, however each change was considered individually and stands on its own merits. These changes reflect the Race organization's ongoing commitment to evolve with the sport of offshore sailboat racing and recognition of a desire by some potential entrants to participate in a way that was previously prohibited. The changes broaden eligibility for participation, while maintaining the Corinthian spirit of the Race - focused on family and fun, with captains and crew participating for the joy and pleasure of sailing, competition and the camaraderie that accompanies this Race.'

The maximum length overall for boats that may enter the race has increased from 80' to 100'. This acknowledges that there are privately owned vessels in the 80'-100' range, designed and built for cruising, which can now find a natural home in a friendly but competitive racing environment. Historically the Marion Bermuda Race was initially restricted to vessels 62' or less. In 2003 this limit was expanded to 80' and now caps at 100'. 'Increasing vessel size throughout the years has been a natural progression which reflects changes in the industry and marketplace,' says McLean.

The fleet of boats that will race under the original Race regulations with limited sail inventory and all amateur crews will now be called the 'Founders Division'. No change has been made to the Celestial Navigation rules but boats in this division will benefit from the increase in length as well as being able to fly a symmetrical spinnaker with a spinnaker pole. Entrants may elect to race without a spinnaker or choose to fly either an asymmetrical spinnaker or symmetrical spinnaker. They will be handicapped accordingly. As in the past, the final selection must be made at least one month prior to the start. McLean added, 'Maintaining the limits on sail inventory and professional crew to provide a level playing field for amateur crews that form our traditional entries was a prime consideration.'

A new division has been added for cruising boats 65' to 100'. This new division will lift the restrictions on the sail inventory. McLean added 'This new division will relax the restriction while maintaining the Corinthian spirit of the race.' Boats in this Division will be permitted to carry multiple spinnakers and use a spinnaker pole. Handicaps will be applied accordingly.

The Classic Sail division is open to training vessels of any size in the ASTA (American Sail Training Association) B, C or D training classes. These vessels will be handicapped according to the ASTA method. Classic Yachts which obtain an ASTA handicap may also join the Race. It is anticipated that boats within the Classic Sail division will have amateur crews with professional licensed officers. Entrants in this division are anticipated to be documented Coast Guard inspected vessels and as such will not be subject to normal inspection process. They will, however, be subject to the compliance committee's post-race inspections. Currently, the Spirit of Bermuda (112 ft LOA including bowsprit) is the first entrant in this division.

The Bermuda Sloop Foundation’s sail-training schooner Spirit of Bermuda will join the 2012 Newport Bermuda Race fleet, sailing as the sole entry in the new “Spirit of Tradition” Division. Because of Spirit of Bermuda’s three-mast schooner rig, she is unable to be fairly and officially rated for competition against the modern design boats that make up the rest of the fleet, and so will sail in a class by herself. Her “Spirit of Tradition” Division will highlight both her traditional design an
John Wadson

The ORR handicapping system will be used for both the Founders Division and the New Division (relaxed sail inventory). The Classic Sail division will use the ASTA handicapping system. The Marion Bermuda Race remains a Category 1 Race, restricted to invited yachts with fixed keels, immovable ballast, complete permanent galleys, enclosed heads and finished interiors with permanent bunks.

'Registration is open and we already have entrants under these new rules' says David Patton, Trustee Chairman. 'There is a great buzz surrounding the race right now and although there is no way to know at this early stage how many boats will be on the start line next June, we are buoyed by the enthusiasm we feel from the sailors and our volunteers. We are looking forward to a great race and take pride in the team we have in place.'

Marion Bermuda website