RBYC commodore Somers Kempe.
RBYC commodore Somers Kempe.

For Somers Kempe, the Newport Bermuda Race is the culmination of months of work.

Mr Kempe, as commodore of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (RBYC), is among those who oversee the large number of volunteers who organize and execute the race.

The volunteers, from both RBYC and the Cruising Club of America, run the gamut from medical professionals –– safety is a priority –– to surveyors and measurers –– each boat is inspected to ensure it’s seaworthy and that the owner and crew are capable sailors.

The volunteers, said Mr Kempe, meet two or three times a year. “It’s a massive team effort. I won’t say it runs itself because it takes a lot of volunteer hours,” he said. “We rely heavily on our volunteers and the business community. It wouldn’t happen without some great sponsors. The Bermuda Tourism Authority and Gosling’s are big sponsors. They allow the event to shine.”

This year’s 635-mile race will feature three Bermudian boats and 180 vessels in total will be participating. The majority of the boats are from the US east coast.

“For the serious people, preparation started a year ago and the more prepared you are, the better your race is likely to be,” said Mr Kempe.

How different skippers handle their crews is always a determining factor in the race, he said: there are shift changes and watch changes to consider for the three or four days at sea.

“It’s your own little micro system during that time,” he said.

Another chief factor: the Gulf Stream. The serious folks, he said, will be looking at satellite imagery to see how the Gulf Stream is setting up.

“Where the warm eddies are forming, where the cold eddies are forming, things like that,” he said.

The Gulf Stream, he said, tends to spread the fleet out.

Entry and exit

‘The Gulf Stream is a major factor. Where you enter and where you go in it and how exit. You could make up 50 to 100 miles depending on what the Gulf Stream does.”

Reading the Gulf Stream, however, is far from an exact science.

“It’s always moving. It won’t necessarily be in the same position that the satellite imagery shows. There could be multiple features in multiple areas of the Gulf Stream that each skipper will handle differently,” he said.

Mr Kempe says while Corinthians –– or amateur sailors –– continue to be the race’s core competitive group, professionals will also have the opportunity to flourish in the competition.

“Our core competitive group continues to be Corinthians. That is the focus and will continue to be our focus,” he said. “In the sailing community, trying to manage racing between professionals and Corinthians can be challenging but I think this race gives professionals a chance to prove themselves and Corinthians a chance to shine.”