The inspiration for the Onion Patch Series came from three Bermuda sailors who were in Cowes, England sailing in the Fastnet Race. The Fastnet Race was then sailed as the finale of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Admiral’s Cup, a hard fought series that included racing in the tidal currents of the Solent, racing in adjacent bays, racing around the Isle of Wight, racing in the Channel Race and trekking off on the famous Fastnet Race.
Shorty and Jerry Trimingham and Warren Brown hatched the idea of bringing the Admiral’s Cup to North America and calling it the Onion Patch Series. They went home and made their dream reality.
The Onion Patch Series was born in 1962 when the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club board and members backed the concept. They deeded the Onion Patch Trophy for competition by national teams of yachts entered in the Newport Bermuda Race.
Racing the first Series in 1964 was scheduled to include a 25-mile race off the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, the Newport Bermuda Race and a 25-mile race off Bermuda’s South shore. The first Onion Patch attracted teams from Bermuda, the United States and Argentina and was won by the US.
Since 1994, the series has begun with windward-leeward racing in the Rhode Island Sound’s often brisk winds and tricky currents, it’s been anchored by the daunting challenge of the classic 635-mile Newport Bermuda Race® with its exciting Gulf Stream crossing in the Thrash to the Onion Patch, and it has concluded with a windward-leeward race and a scenic flexi-course in flat water with shifty breezes on Bermuda’s Great Sound, Granaway Deep and Hamilton Harbour.
In 2014 the Onion Patch Navigators Series was added. This opend the series to include cruiser oriented programs and courses around government buoys and dropped markd.
The Onion Patch Series initially was purely team-oriented, like the Admiral’s Cup. But it has evolved into a tough triathlon of offshore yacht racing for teams going for the Onion Patch Trophy and for individual yachts racing for the Henry B. du Pont Trophy. Navigators Series entries now compete for the Richard ‘Dick’ Kempe Trophy.
In the early days, when the Onion Patch Series was purely for international three-boat teams, the numbers were naturally small. Boats would have to sail or be shipped to New York or Newport. Competing was expensive.
In 1990 and 1992 more emphasis was placed on individual entries. Teams representing yacht clubs and sailing associations or other organizations were allowed entry in addition to national teams. In 1994, the year of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club’s 150th anniversary, the final event of the series was moved back to Bermuda to include the RBYC Anniversary Regatta. Entries reached 45 individual yachts with 21 of them forming seven teams.
The Onion Patch Series continues to attract a good fleet of boats because of the exciting challenges it offers to professional and amateur sailors alike. In 2014 there were 23 entries— 16 traditional and seven entries in the new Navigators Race Series. There were three three-boat teams in 2014. In 2012 there had been 23 individual entries and three teams. This was down from 2010 when there were 38 individual entries and five three-boat teams. In 2006, the Bermuda Race Centennial year, there were 48 individual entries and seven teams, while 2008 had 30 entries and four teams.