Camping for Cup Match

Discover why Bermuda’s premier cricket event is one of the best weekends to pitch a tent.

  • People & Culture

Dating back to 1902, when sportsmen from Somerset on Bermuda’s west end and St. George’s on the east end competed in a friendly cricket match to celebrate the abolition of slavery nearly 70 years earlier, Cup Match is by far the biggest event on the island’s sporting calendar. “It's like Bermuda’s Super Bowl,” says Neil Paynter, president of the St. George’s Cricket Club of the two-day event, which takes place annually on the last Thursday and Friday in July. “Regardless of what team people support,” says Paynter, “everyone just comes together as one to have a great time and enjoy a uniquely Bermudian experience.”

But no one experience is as unique to Cup Match as the colourful camps that begin to pop up days before the event begins, which is a tradition that’s as old as the match itself. “Before we had cars on the island, people would row boats to the east end or the west end to watch the match,” says Paynter. “It just made sense to set up camp in a park or along the roadside so families could stay and watch the game the next day.” Back then, camps were basic and included whatever supplies families could fit on a small dinghy, but these days Cup Match camps are elaborate living spaces decked out with all the comforts of home—indeed, the only time of year when visitors will be able to spot hundreds of overnight camps set up across the island. 

“People will take their whole house,” says longtime Cup Match commentator Sean Tucker, who’s known colloquially as the Voice of Summer for his expert play-by-play analysis heard on radios across the island. “For the week leading up to the match, families will reserve a spot in their favourite park near the pitch and will just go all out,” says Tucker. This includes expansive seating areas, portable showers, electric fans, multi-person tents with air mattresses, barbecue grills with local food galore and of course, coolers and mini refrigerators powered by generators to keep jugs of homemade Bermuda rum swizzle icy cold. “For some families,” says Tucker, “camping is just as much a part of their holiday season as the game itself.”

This also includes “day camps” set up just outside the oval, where Bermuda’s top cricketers battle on the field for the two-day event at the Somerset and St. George’s Cricket Clubs, respectively. Slightly different than the overnight campgrounds where families bunk up before and after the match, these are over 100 scaffolded structures right beside the action on the field that are decorated with team colours—navy blue and red for Somerset and light blue for St. George’s—and stocked up with traditional Bermudian foods like mussel pie, baked barbecue chicken and fried fish, plus tables and chairs on carpeted floors where locals can often be spotted playing cards and dominoes. 

People are standing at colorful camps during Bermuda Cup Match.

“Fans will even brand their camps with funny names, like Club Sardine or President’s Camp to give them that extra Bermudian flair,” says Neil Paynter, whose family has had a camp at the St. George’s cricket club since 1987. “Back in the day we used to build them with two-by-four and plywood,” says Paynter. “But now they come fully ready made on eight-by-eight and sixteen-by-sixteen-foot plots, so all you have to do is bring what you need.” 

For visitors heading to the event, that also includes dollar bills since one of the biggest off-the-field attractions is Crown and Anchor, a wildly popular dice game that was originally brought to Bermuda by sailors in the Royal Navy in the 1800’s. To play, simply place your bet on a board containing one of six symbols—crown, anchor, diamond, spade, club, and heart—then roll a trio of dice with the same symbols. If your wager is on a symbol that the dice returned, the player is paid his stake for each die showing the symbol (so a $10 bet returns $20 for one die, $30 for two, $40 for three) and if the symbol doesn’t come up, the player loses his bet. 

A group of people are playing crown & anchor.

“Crown and Anchor is part of the fabric of Cup Match,” says Paynter, who recommends that visitors get to the pitch early to play a few rounds of the dice game before viewing the first ball—indeed the most highly anticipated pitch of the entire match. “You can always go to the beach in the afternoon,” says Paynter, “but you really want to be there for the first ball on the very first day.” 

But whether you’re experiencing Cup Match on the pitch or perhaps, while rubbing elbows with a Bermudian family camping in one of the island’s oceanside parks, pink sand beaches and green public spaces, there’s no mistaking that you’ll be welcomed with open arms wherever you decide to enjoy the game. “Bermudians are notoriously friendly,” says Sean Tucker who will be calling the match held at St. George’s Cricket Club this July for his 39th straight year. “I’ve never seen a visitor turned away from a camp,” he says. “Cup Match in Bermuda is where friendships are made.”



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