In 1972, purely by chance, two remarkable people met on the dock at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club
(RHADC) in Bermuda. One was Dickie Bird, a gregarious Bermudian and member of RHADC. The other was David Kingery, a Professor of Materials Science at MIT and member of the Blue Water Sailing Club
(BWSC) and Beverly Yacht Club
Kingery was on the return leg of a year-long trip to Tahiti with his wife and teenage son aboard their Columbia 50 Keramos. The Kingerys and Birds became good friends. In 1975 the Kingerys invited the Birds aboard for a cruise in the Caribbean, and in the evenings David and Dickie sketched the outline of a new ocean race. They both thought that the growing professionalism in sailing races and the improving safety and seaworthiness of cruising yachts justified creating a race from New England to Bermuda specifically for Corinthian (amateur) cruising sailors.
The result was the first Marion-Bermuda Race
. Co-sponsored by the RHADC and BWSC (with registration and starting line support from the BYC), the inaugural race started on June 25, 1977. There were 104 boats at the line for that first race. The organizers had expected 40, perhaps 50 boats, but interest was so strong that they had to cut off applications a month before the start.
In 1979, the Beverly Yacht Club joined RHADC and BWSC as a sponsor, and since then the Marion-Bermuda Race has had the full support of the membership and capabilities of each club. Today, approaching the 21st running and 40th anniversary of the Marion-Bermuda Race in June, 2017, the BYC is focused on registration, social events, and starting line procedures. RHADC focuses on finish line, results reporting, compliance and penalty adjudication as well as Bermuda social events. The Blue Water Sailing Club concentrates on producing the popular Safety-at-Sea Symposium
in March of each race year. BWSC member Ed Stott currently chairs the Safety-at-Sea Symposium.
The entire operation is overseen by a Board of Trustees Chaired by BWSC member and former Commodore Dave Patton, and an Executive Committee chaired by BWSC member Allan McLean. The Trustees include BWSC members Mark Gabrielson and Anne Kolker. BWSC member Paul Goldberg coordinates yacht inspections. The Executive Committee, Organizing Committee and other essential groups have balanced representation from the U.S. and Bermuda.
The Marion-Bermuda Race has flourished because Kingery and Bird had a good idea, and because the race has remained loyal to their insight that a Corinthian race emphasizing good seamanship is important in ocean racing. It also is the only major ocean race that awards a trophy for a class of yachts navigated using celestial methods.
The Blue Water Sailing Club and its members will continue to be essential to the success of the Marion-Bermuda Race and the Safety-at-Sea Symposium. Without BWSC, the race wouldn’t exist, and it won’t succeed in the future.