Bermuda Race Roll of Honour
The Bermuda Race Roll of Honour was founded at the centennial celebration of the Newport Bermuda Race by the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, with the following mission: “The Bermuda Race Roll of Honour recognizes and honors extraordinary achievement in or concerning the Newport Bermuda Race and its predecessor races."
During the year-long celebration of the Bermuda Race’s 100th anniversary in 2006, it seemed right that its lively and important history should not be left behind as the race began its second century. Valuable contributions have been made by a commemorative book, A Berth to Bermuda: 100 Years of the World’s Classic Ocean Race, by John Rousmaniere, and a commemorative video, Racing to Bermuda: A Century on the Ocean, by Gary Jobson. There also was interest in creating a permanent historical institution.
That is why the race’s long-time organizers, the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, have founded the Bermuda Race Roll of Honour with the following mission: “The Bermuda Race Roll of Honour recognizes and honors extraordinary achievement in or concerning the Newport Bermuda Race and its predecessor races.”
It is called the Roll of Honour, not Hall of Fame, for two reasons. First, with two sponsors 635 miles apart, it cannot be housed in a single building. Plaques listing honorees will be displayed in both countries. In addition, halls of fame typically recognize only winners. The goal here is to identify all types of contributors to the race’s success. The name is spelled in the English fashion to signify the race’s essential international identity. The Bermuda Race is not only the oldest regularly scheduled ocean race, and the oldest ocean race for amateur sailors. It’s also the oldest long ocean race with the start in one country and the finish in another.
The five-person selection committee is international. Representing Bermuda are Kirk Cooper and Warren Brown, each an extremely experienced ocean racer and cruiser (Warren did over 200,000 miles in his sloop War Baby) with many Bermuda Races behind them. For its part, the Cruising Club of America named two experienced ocean racers. Kaighn Smith is a former CCA commodore who won the 1994 Bermuda Race in Gaylark. Owen Smith is an authority on Bermuda Race history and another multi-time Bermuda Race skipper. The fifth member of the selection committee is John Rousmaniere, the author of the race’s history. The selection committee has elected him as chairman.
Six sailors were selected for the first Bermuda Race class in 2006. For the second class the committee had one unanimous choice in 2008 -- sailor and yacht designer Olin Stephens, who celebrated his 100th birthday. Olin sailed his first Bermuda Race 80 years ago, in 1928, and did many more afterwards. He has designed more race winners than any other yacht designer. And he has always been a friend of the race and an advocate for what it stands for -- sailing good boats out into the ocean. .
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Olin J. Stephens
Olin J. Stephens II was elected to the Bermuda Race Roll of Honour on the 80th anniversary of the first of his many races to “the Onion Patch.” No yacht designer has produced more prize-winners over the race’s 102-year, 45-race history. The overall winners of 13 races, the first-to-finish boats in 11 races, and 45 class winners are all Stephens designs, as are the race’s only multi-race winners—the 72-foot yawl Baruna (winner in 1938 and 1948) and the 38-foot yawl Finisterre (1956, 1958, and 1960). Baruna is one of the largest boats to win a Bermuda Race, and Finisterre is one of the smallest.
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The six individuals in the first class of inductees in the Bermuda Race Roll of Honour include the race’s founder, an important organizer, two of the greatest heroes in the history of sailing, and the holders of a pair of the race’s records. (The following citations include excerpts from A Berth to Bermuda: 100 Years of the World’s Classic Ocean Race, by John Rousmaniere.)
Thomas Fleming Day
An English-born American, the visionary Thomas Fleming Day founded the Bermuda Race in 1906 with the revolutionary aim of providing an ocean race for amateur sailors in normal boats.
Until then, entries in ocean races were larger than 100 feet and sailed by professional crews. “The danger of the sea for generations has been preached by the ignorant,” Day proclaimed. Amateur seafaring, he said, is a healthy thing to do. “A noble art makes noble men, and there is no nobler art than seamanship.” Besides building character, Day knew that an ocean race would improve the breed of sailboats by testing them on the open sea. He arranged with the Brooklyn Yacht Club to start it the race in New York Bay, and with the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club to finish it off St. David’s Light. Besides establishing a mission for the race, Day skippered the first winner.
Back to topSir Eldon Trimingham
A brilliant sailor, a skilled amateur yacht designer, and a commodore of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, Sir Eldon Trimingham was a leader of the race’s revival after World War I. As he encouraged his fellow Bermudians and American sailors to go back to sea in small boats, he served as a crucial link between his club and the new Cruising Club of America as they took over joint management of the race in 1926. Besides sailing in several races, he served as Bermuda’s representative on the organizing committee for many years.
Bobby Somerset and Clarence Kozlay
A feat of astonishing heroism occurred on the first night of the 1932 Bermuda Race. The cutter Jolie Brise had been sailed over from England for the race by her owner, Henry Robert Somers Fitzroy de Vere Somerset, a descendant of the Duke of Beaufort who was known as “Bobby.” In his crew were the great American sailor Sherman Hoyt, and also Herbert L. Stone, who had taken over management of the Bermuda Race from Thomas Fleming Day. When one of the crew spotted flares in the night sky astern, Somerset turned Jolie Brise back. They soon came across a competitor, the schooner Adriana, in flames, as her sailors were frantically launching the boat and tossing spars into the water to use as improvised life rafts. At the end of the 12-foot tiller, Somerset sailed the engineless Jolie Brise alongside the burning schooner as Adriana’s helmsman, American Clarence Kozlay, held position. The sides bumped, the rigging tangled, and ten of Adriana’s 11 crewmembers clambered across the bulwarks onto the cutter’s deck. Kozlay did not let go the wheel until he was certain his shipmates were safe. When he finally made the jump, it was moments too late. He fell into the sea and disappeared, the only fatality in Bermuda Race’s long history.
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When he won three consecutive Newport Bermuda Races in his 38-foot yawl Finisterre in 1956, 1958, and 1960, Carleton Mitchell set the most bullet-proof record in yachting history.
Nobody else has won even two Bermuda Races in succession. When asked how he did it, Mitchell invariably claimed he was lucky. In fact, he built the boat of his dreams, recruited an exceptionally skilled crew, and led them brilliantly. As Dick Nye (himself a two-time winner) said about Finisterre: ‘She’s got everything. And he sails the hell out of her.’” Mitchell has made numerous contributions to the race and the sport, for example, by donating trophies, most recently the first prize for the Cruising Division. In his sailing, his photographs, and his writing, he has demonstrated and told how to live a good life under sail. For every mile Finisterre raced, she cruised at least ten. This is the man who wrote, “To desire nothing beyond what you have is surely happiness. Aboard a boat, it is frequently possible to achieve just that: That is why sailing is a way of life, one of the finest of lives.” Such writing, coupled with Finisterre’s racing record, helped stimulate the Bermuda’s Race’s biggest boom. From 77 boats in 1954, the fleet blossomed in 1960 to 131, and its popularity has been sustained.
Few sailors have raced to Bermuda more times than George Coumantaros – 26 races since 1952 – and nobody has got there fastest more often. In two Boomerangs, he set the record for the most elapsed-time victories – four, in 1984, 1990, 1992, and 1996. In 1996 he set a new speed record of 57 hours, 31 minutes (an average speed of 11 knots) and accomplished a rare double victory by also winning that race on handicap. After chasing the coveted St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy for four decades, he announced, “We’ve been like Jason chasing the Golden Fleece.” He went on, “I’d like to give all who sail for the Lighthouse Trophy some advice: don’t despair, keep trying, and if you don’t win it by the time you are 75, withdraw.” He then was 72, making him the race’s second oldest winner after DeCoursey Fales, who won the 1962 race at age 74. George Coumantaros was not in the game solely for the silverware. After finishing second on elapsed time 1970, he took the lead boat, Windward Passage, under tow to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. As they approached Two Rock Passage, Coumantaros ordered the tow line cast off and turned his yawl Baccara around so that Passage would have the honor of being first boat into Hamilton Harbor. He understood what the Bermuda Race is about.
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