A favorite town tradition will take place on Sunday, July 9, when the Marblehead-to-Halifax Ocean Race returns after a four-year absence.
Hosted by the Boston Yacht Club and the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron of Canada, the 39th biennial running of this beloved ocean race marks a renewal of a friendly rivalry between two countries that dates back to the first race in 1905.
Considered to be one of the premier ocean races on the Eastern seaboard, the race was postponed in 2021 because the Canadian border was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Understandably, there has been a surge of interest among both American and Canadian teams for the race’s return this year. The many U.S. entries include teams from Ohio, Maryland, New York, and throughout New England.
Skipper Beth Berry and her all-female crew from Annapolis, Maryland, plan to race on board the Tartan 41 “Kyrie,” and a youth-oriented team from the Oakcliff Sailing Center in Oyster Bay, New York, will compete on board the Farr 40 “Blue.”
Further, there are 15 Canadian vessels coming this year whose home ports are not only in the Maritime provinces of Canada like Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but also Newfoundland, Ontario and Alberta, with skipper Matt Stokes on board the J133 “Bluebird III.” Stokes comes from as far away as the Canadian Rockies, while the boat is based in the Bras d’or Lakes on Cape Breton.
“We certainly see a pent-up demand for this race,” said Ed Bell, a member of the Marblehead-to-Halifax Committee. “This race has always been a big deal for our town, for the sailors and for the clubs.”
The race remains a challenge to ocean sailors in part because of the Bay of Fundy tides, crossing Cape Sable Island off the tip of Nova Scotia, the cold Labrador Current, fog and cold.
Many competitors also aspire to break the speed record, which is currently held by the 68-foot yacht “Prospector.” Prospector finished the 2017 race in 28 hours, 28 minutes and 50 seconds, topping the previous record of 30 hours, 46 minutes and 52 seconds, set in 2011.
Onshore spectators will have a bird’s eye view of the start after 1 p.m. on Sunday when 71 boats in five divisions will vie for position.
If the wind and weather are favorable, the yachts will start near Halfway Rock and head west toward the shore, turning south just off Marblehead Neck before turning again at Tinkers Rock to set a course for Halifax.
On shore, the best places for onshore viewing will be Chandler Hovey Park and Castle Rock.
It is predicted that a large spectator fleet will be on the water along the starting course. There will also be two Royal Canadian Navy vessels, HMCS Glace Bay and HMCS Moncton, to escort the racers to Nova Scotia.
Yachting enthusiasts can follow the progress of the race on the website marbleheadtohalifax.com. Each competitor will be equipped with a GPS transponder. The progress of each yacht can be tracked on the MHOR website, and you can replay the racing sequence during and after the race ends.
For more information go to https://www.marbleheadtohalifax.com.