The Newport Bermuda Race

Every other year, sailing crews compete in a rousing open-ocean race between U.S. and Bermuda waters. This is the race of legends – the classic that turned the sea into a playground and made ocean-racing a sport. 

  • Sailing
Newport to Bermuda sailboat race

First thought to be insanely dangerous, the Newport Bermuda Race is now considered one the world's most glamorous, difficult and addictive ocean races. Founded in 1906, the 635 nautical mile biennial race is the oldest regularly scheduled ocean race, one of just two of the world's races held almost entirely with no land in sight. Crews face hammering winds and encounter pods of whales as they sail between Newport, Rhode Island and St. David's Lighthouse on Bermuda's East End. 

Race Details & Background Information

Approximately 150 to 200 boats sail the Newport-Bermuda Race each time. The average crew has 10 men or women. The race begins in Newport, Rhode Island on the third Friday in June. It takes more than two hours to get all those boats started in their six divisions and 17 classes.

The rules say, "The Newport Bermuda Race is not a race for novices." Depending on weather, Gulf Stream currents and the boat's size and speed, the race takes two to six days to complete. The first boat arrives at the finish line at St. David's Lighthouse on Sunday or Monday, and the smaller boats arrive between then and Thursday.

Land view of St. David's Lighthouse

The race is nicknamed "the thrash to the Onion Patch." That's because most Newport Bermuda races include high winds and big waves (a combination sailors call "a hard thrash"). It's also because Bermuda was once an agricultural island where large onions thrived. See how the first Newport Bermuda Race began.

Since 1923, the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club have run the race. The race is managed by the volunteer Bermuda Race Organizing Committee, made up of members of the two clubs.

Record-Setting Wins

  • Fastest race: Rambler, 39 hr., 39 min., 18 sec. (ave. 16 knots), 2012
  • Slowest race: Venturer, 121:13:12 (ave. 5.2 knots), 1960
  • Largest winner: Margaret, 93 feet, 1909; (modern) Boomerang, 80 feet, 1996
  • Smallest winner: Burgoo, 37 feet, 1964
  • Most victories, skipper: 3 (tie) - John Alden in three Malabars (1923, 1926, 1932) and Carleton Mitchell in Finisterre (1956, 1958, 1960)
  • Most victories, boat: 3 - Finisterre (1956, 1958, 1960), Carina (1970, 2010, 2012)
  • Most races by a sailor: 30, Jim Mertz, (every race except two, 1936-2004)
  • Most races by a boat: • 20, Carina Richard S. Nye and Rives Potts (1970-2014)

Located just a 90-minute flight from New York and two to three hours from other major US East Coast cities, Bermuda is closer than you’d think: you could be having lunch on the beach! 

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