The Bermuda Offshore Cruising Association has been in existence since 1958 (although not officially named until some time later) when several of Bermuda’s intrepid yachtsmen decided to race their wooden craft, some of which had open cockpits, from St. Georges to the Texas Tower which was located on Argus Bank approximately 22 nautical miles SW of Bermuda. The tower has since been removed as a navigation hazard but the Argus Bank and neighbouring Challenger Bank remain a popular spot for the islands fishermen.
The first race involved four boats (the only ones on the island remotely capable of going offshore) ranging from 19- 29 feet in length, and, as one of the founding members, Mr. Eldon Trimingham points out, in those days, safety equipment was extremely primitive, with no fixed compasses, no lifejackets, no radios or navigation equipment or first aid kits. Two boats completed the course on this first race although one never found the mark but assumed the distance covered must have assured he had covered the distance!!
An aim of gaining offshore experience to take part and perform well in the prestigious Newport- Bermuda Race was the motivating factor for some of the early participants while for others the contrary was true. In fact when naming this new founded association the word ‘racing’ was deliberately left out of the title and the word, ‘cruising’ used instead, for fear of putting off potential participants who did not want to get too serious about it all!
Today, the association is definitely racing oriented and as most of the members yachts are moored centrally and for the sake of convenience much of the racing is held in the Great Sound and along the North Shore of the island with the average course length being around 20 nautical miles.
Several ‘true’ offshore races are held each year (with complete ORC safety equipment required on board of course) which often involve circumnavigating the outer reefs of Bermuda, a distance of approximately 120 miles. Alternative offshore courses involve a race from Hamilton Harbour to the Biological Station research buoy presently located 45 nautical miles SE of the island or racing to the Challenger or Argus Banks. Weekend overnight races from Hamilton to St. Georges are held several times a year and prove to be very popular.
Like the rest of the world, sailing has changed over the years in Bermuda with the introduction of lighter and faster boats and great advancements in sail design technology. However, BOCA attempts to cater to all types and ages of vessel and essentially any seaworthy keel boat is eligible to enter the races.
While changes in format have taken place over the years, the spirit of the association remains and although the element of competition is always present, the main purpose is to have fun with friends who enjoy a similar experience.