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Impressive entry list for the Antigua-Bermuda Race
Published on May 2, 2017Email To Friend    Print Version

The 112ft three-masted schooner Spirit of Bermuda owned by the Bermuda Sloop Foundation © Ed Gifford

By Louay Habib

ST JOHN’S, Antigua -- An impressive entry list is taking shape for the Antigua-Bermuda Race, which starts from Antigua on Friday May12, 2017. With 22 entries, including 17 over 50ft and seven Maxis and one SuperMaxi, the sight of the fleet departing for the 900 nautical mile race will be nothing short of spectacular. The variety of the fleet shows the wide appeal of the offshore race, attracting ocean going cruisers, round the world racing yachts, high performance multihulls, as well as classic designs.

The latest entry to race is the beautiful classic Bermudian yawl, Mariella, skippered by owner, Carlo Falcone. The 80ft (24m) Alfred Mylne-designed ketch was built entirely from wood by the legendary William Fife & Son yard in Scotland in 1938 and was lovingly restored by Carlo after being badly damaged in a hurricane. Mariella is now in fantastic condition and on top form having secured overall victory in the recent Panerai Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.

Classic Bermudian yawl, Carlo Falcone's 80ft Mariella © Tim Wright/

One of the first yachts to enter the Antigua-Bermuda Race was Spirit of Bermuda and there is more than meets the eye to the 112ft three-masted schooner. Just a couple of weeks before the start of the race, Spirit of Bermuda was racing with the giants at Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. Spirit of Bermuda got the better of the 141ft (43m) Columbia and gave the professional crew on the 210ft (64m) Adix a run for their money.

Spirit of Bermuda is owned by the Bermuda Sloop Foundation, the brainchild of founder Malcolm Kirkland, with co-founders Jay Kempe and Alan Burland. Since her launch in 2006, 4,000 Bermudian teenagers have sailed on her free of charge, the vast majority from state schools, whose parents could not afford a foul weather jacket, let alone a five-day trip on a multi-million dollar boat. Charter guests at events like the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta contribute to the cost of running the boat and this summer Spirit of Bermuda will proudly serve VIP guests, watching the 35th America's Cup.

"It has been an ambitious project to say the least," explained Kempe. "Malcolm Kirkland engaged the Bermudian government and set about establishing educational programmes. As a lawyer I handled all of the contractual obligations and obtaining mortgages, and as a building contractor, Alan Burland would oversee the build project. It was incredibly complex; it took five years just to design the boat and the whole project was like building an airline business from scratch. It would never have happened without the tremendous support from right across the Bermudian community."

Spirit of Bermuda was designed by Bill Langan, chief designer at Sparkman Stephens, the highly acclaimed naval architect who produced the designs for Nirvana, Sagamore and Eos. The concept of the design for Spirit of Bermuda was a picture from the 1830s, as Jay Kempe explains:

Painting Spirit of Bermuda based on

"The picture is hanging in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, entitled Emancipation Day 1834. It shows a Royal Navy man-of-war and depicts slaves catching a turtle, which was illegal at that time. What is significant about the painting to us is that the goal with Spirit of Bermuda is to bring a multiracial community together, and back in the1830s things were a lot more equal at sea then they were ashore!"

Spirit of Bermuda © Ed Gifford Photography
Spirit of Bermuda is built in wood, cold molded construction with an 80-ton bilge keel and has three semi freestanding carbon masts. Below deck are 23 berths and a large galley. Spirit of Bermuda is purpose-built as a training ship. With little weight aloft, the vessel is incredibly stable and the configuration below can accommodate children and double up as a classroom, even in the stormiest seas. Spirit of Bermuda has an amazing turn of speed, especially in heavy weather as she can remain under control with a huge amount of sail area aloft, including the distinctive spinnaker, donated by Goslings Rum.

"The ingenuity that Bermudians have shown over the years in so many fields has been extraordinary. Back when Bermuda came to be, their forefathers were skilled, excellent shipwrights, riggers, boat builders and sailors. Helping young Bermudians to understand their heritage and how and why Bermuda has been so successful gives them enriching educational benefits. When young children understand how resourceful and resilient their families have been, they will try to be the same," Kempe said.

Watch leaders on board Spirit of Bermuda for the Antigua-Bermuda Race will be three young Bermudians, who have learned their skills on board: Dkembe Outerbridge-Dill, Patrick Perret and Lamar Samuels.

"Glory!" commented Dkembe when asked to describe the race in one word. "We are racing to win and coming home to Bermuda having sailed thousands of miles since we left will be glorious," he concluded.
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