NEWPORT - On June 18, 1977, 20 solo sailors crossed the starting line at Newport, Rhode Island and nosed out into the North Atlantic to challenge the ocean and each other in a grueling 635-mile single-handed race to St. George’s, Bermuda. In boats ranging from 22 to 41 feet in length, these sailors were the pioneer participants in the first running of what has now become a biennial tradition - the Bermuda One-Two.
The race was conceived and founded in 1977 by the Society of Lone Offshore Sailors (SOLOS) under the direction of OSTAR competitor Jerry Cartwright. In 1979, the Bermuda One-Two became the sole management responsibility of Goat Island Yacht Club, Ltd. Until 1992 when a joint agreement with the Newport (RI) Yacht Club was enacted, making both clubs co-organizers of the race. The St. George’s Dingy & Sports Club has been the host club in Bermuda for the event’s entire history.
The objective of this particular race is and remains the making of a single-handed/shorthanded passage, which encourages safety, good seamanship, communication, and on-going gear and technique development and testing. It is an event designed to accommodate and challenge both single-handed cruisers and racers alike – from the “rock star” to the Corinthian “every man”. The race is sailed in two parts: Leg One by a lone skipper from Newport to Bermuda, and, following a brief layover, Leg Two back Newport with one crew member – hence the origin of the event’s name.
The original intent of event organizers was to formulate a race that would be attractive to racing and cruising sailors alike who seek the adventure, camaraderie and experience of single-handedly undertaking a 635-mile blue-water passage. One measure of the organizers’ success is the continually growing list of new participants who each year are added to ranks of race veterans. Several skippers have been repeating entrants of the race 0 and one gentleman has successfully finished all of the past single-handed legs!
Not surprisingly, the experience gained from the Bermuda One-Two has led some of its alumni to embark on longer single-handed voyages, such as the Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race (STAR), the Europe Two-STAR, and the BOC, Round Alone single-handed circumnavigation races. Illustrious alumni include Steve Pettengill, Floyd Romack, George Stricker, Neal Petersen, Nigel Rowe, Josh Hall, and the late Harry Mitchell, who was lost at sea in a BOC race while trying to achieve a long-time goal – rounding Cape Horn alone. Three veterans, Brad Van Liew, Derrick Hatfield, and Alan Paris have competed in the Round Alone Race. Two recent Bermuda One-Two participants, Joe Harris and Kip Stone, are participating in long offshore short-handed racing and have goals of single handed around the world racing.
The Bermuda One-Two has also helped develop sailors into confident and knowledgeable circumnavigator/cruising skippers. In addition, published reports of problems encountered by these individuals and the ways in which they were able to solve their problems tend to contribute to improvements in both sail- and boat-handling and in sailing gear.
So, how did it all begin? Well, SOLOS organized and directed the Bermuda One-Two races in June, 1977, which were sailed under the auspices of the then – Rhode Island State Yachting Advisory Committee, The Bermuda Offshore Cruising Association, the St. George's Dingy & Sports Club, and the City of Newport. In 1979, Jerry Carwright, SOLOS' original director, asked the Goat Island Yacht Club, Ltd. to assume the responsibilities for what had begun to grow into an increasingly popular biennial competition.
In an effort to keep the entry fees low (and thereby not eliminate any skipper who might want the opportunity to enter), race organizers from Goat Island YC deemed it necessary to seek outside financial assistance if the race series was to be a continuing success. In 1979, Racal-Decca Corporation was approached, and they responded in kind by offering sponsorship for the 1979 and 1981 series. In 1983 and 1985, Survival Technologies Group assumed the role of primary event sponsor and continued its support of the event through 1987. In 1987 and 1989, Carlsberg Beer provided additional sponsorship. Sufficient organization and funding was available in 1987 to produce a race pamphlet, which detailed the race and profiled its entrants. The 1987 series also boasted the event’s highest number of finishers – 30 boats.
The Bermuda One-Two was run with some sponsorship funding provided by the Rhode Island State Yachting Committee since 1989. After the 1991 series, race organizers realized that attempting to run an international event of this type without substantial support funding and manpower was compromising the overall quality of the event.
In early 1992, a joint agreement was drafted and signed, empowering Goat Island Yacht Club, Ltd. and Newport (RI) Yacht Club to act as co-organizers for the Bermuda One-Two and for what was then a qualifier for the One-Two – the New England SOLO-TWIN Championships. Working together, the Bermuda One-Two continues to grow and improve, drawing sponsorship in the form of in-kind donations from local merchants and event vendors, small local marine industry-based companies, and from the event’s long-time benefactors, the State of Rhode Island and the City of Newport. Event competitors, many of whom own their own businesses, make contributions to the event by donating their services and products.
The number of entrants continues to grow with these renewed efforts; in 1995, there were 37 provisional entrants for the Tenth Biennial running of the event. Skippers’ hailed from homeports in England, South Africa, Canada, the Great Lakes, Bermuda and the entire East Coast of the US. Inquiries for the race have come in from all over the world, and our mailing list has grown to well over 300 interested short- and single-handed sailors. A spin-off group of Bermuda One-Two alumnus has formed their own single-handed sailing society on Long Island Sound, and 160-mile single-handed qualifier for the Bermuda One-Two, the Offshore 160, was inaugurated in July of 1996. In addition, the same organizers host the annual New England Solo/Twin Championship that has been sailed since 1985 and has become the premier shorthanded offshore race in southern New England.
The number of perpetual trophies for the Bermuda One-Two has grown with the event, and an impressive number of prizes above and beyond class finishes in both legs are presented in prize presentations staged in both Bermuda and Newport. These trophies celebrate achievements in sportsmanship, seamanship, navigational skills, conquest of on-the-water adversity and sheer guts. In short, almost any skipper who enters the Bermuda One-Two can have the opportunity to win some award of recognition, as well as the feeling of personal triumph. It is the opinion of the race organizers that any skipper who crosses the starting line is considered to be a winner, because they know just what it takes for a skipper to take that first, all-important step.
In 2014 the Goat Island Yacht Club was dropped as a co-host since the yacht club became a defunct yacht club due to lack of interest by it's members. The Newport Yacht Club is the sole host of the Bermuda One-Two with the St. George's Dinghy & Sports Club hosting in Bermuda.