Local training sloop Spirit of Bermuda will attempt to achieve what others failed to in the first race for the “Auld Mug” more than a century ago — beat the schooner America.

The two vessels will be among the racing fleet taking part in the inaugural Antigua Bermuda Race to be held in the final lead-up to the 35th America’s Cup.

The race is being organised by the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club in association with Antigua Sailing Week and will commence after the 50th edition of Antigua Sailing Week in early May 2017.

“Bermuda is excited to be hosting the 2017 America’s Cup and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club sees the Antigua Bermuda Race as an opportunity to have some fun getting to Bermuda in time for the month-long America’s Cup celebrations,” Les Crane, the race chairman, said.

“Bermuda is one of the prettiest sailing grounds in the Atlantic. There is only 21 square miles of land, but it’s spread among 181 islands, creating countless pink sand beaches, coves and anchorages. Along with the vibrant town life, it’s a great place to be. Add in the America’s Cup and it is the place to be in May 2017.

“Each spring many yachts pass through on their way to New England or Europe, stopping for only a day or two. We want to encourage them to stay a while and enjoy all that Bermuda has to offer.”

Designed to offer an exciting passage race to Bermuda, the race is open to yachts and multihulls with a minimum length of 40ft, holding a valid IRC and/or CSA rating certificate or superyacht rating. Dual scoring will be provided, while a provision for a motor sailing handicap will be overlaid for cruiser racers.

The 935-nautical mile race starts off Fort Charlotte, Antigua, and finishes finish off St David’s Lighthouse.

In early May, the northern limits of the tradewinds can be as much as 28°N. Easterly or southeasterly winds are common for the first half of the passage, giving exhilarating reaching or downwind conditions. Light southerly winds are common in the horse latitudes that traverse the Sargasso Sea and the finish in Bermuda is likely to be a tactically different challenge change to the fast-surfing conditions of the tradewinds.

An international fleet of yachts is expected for the race, with the RBYC already taking preregistration of yachts interested in racing.

America is owned by Troy Sears’s company and is a modern replica of the New York Yacht Club’s famous yacht that beat the best the British had to offer in a race around the Isle of Wight in 1851 for the Royal Yacht Squadron’s 100 Guinea Cup, which later became known as the America’s Cup.

“The Antigua Bermuda Race is a natural, and I was surprised that the race didn’t already exist,” Sears said. “It was an honour to introduce Antigua Sailing Week to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and be a key part of the development of the race. I am sure their leadership will produce a fantastic regatta.

“For us, racing against our friends, the Spirit of Bermuda, will be a fantastic way to enter Bermuda before the 35th defence of the America’s Cup. The race will also be the final leg for the schooner America and the America’s Cup Tour after visiting more than 100 ports on both coasts of the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.”

This article appeared in The Royal Gazette on December 17th, 2015.

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