by Natasha Wolff | September 15, 2015 11:00 am
When we pull up to the South Basin of Bermuda’s Royal Navy Dockyard—“pit row,” as the locals call it—the sun
is barely peeking out from behind a swath of clouds. It’s just past seven in the morning, an ordinarily tranquil time of day for an island brimming with carefree vacationers. But things are far from tranquil here. There are workers straddling jackhammers like pogo sticks, causing the ground beneath us to tremor; young women pace feverishly back and forth while clutching walkie-talkies.
In just two years—once the stadium-style seating, concert stages and Jumbotrons have arrived—this place will
be virtually unrecognizable. Now, though, it’s nothing more than an empty concrete pier dotted with aircraft hangars. Outside of one, a cluster of men with tanned faces and sun-bleached locks have congregated; they’re dressed in matching black tracksuits like a SWAT team of Cali-bred surfers. But they aren’t here to catch waves. They’re here to sail.
The cause for the commotion is Oracle Team USA—a syndicate of 50 people, including 12 sailors—who, this past April, uprooted their lives and descended upon Bermuda, the host venue for the 35th America’s Cup. Though the race won’t commence until June 2017, teams from around the world will spend two years and millions of dollars scrutinizing every nuance of the course in preparation. For Oracle, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The Larry Ellison–backed team sailed to victory in both the 33rd and 34th America’s Cups, leaving them with the monumental task of defending the trophy once again in 2017.
And so, here they are, at seven in the morning, readying to set sail on Bermuda’s Great Sound. Oracle’s skipper, James Spithill, a native of Northern Australia with freckled skin and chapped lips, explains that the boat they’ll race today is simply a “small prototype” of the 50-foot flying catamaran set to be used in the actual competition. (That boat will take an entire year to complete.) “Small prototype” seems like a deeply inadequate way to describe the thing sitting in front of us—a gargantuan vessel that reaches speeds of up to 30 knots (35 miles per hour) and can, quite literally, fly several feet above the water.
The ruckus throughout pit row suddenly comes to a screeching halt, as the boat rolls out from beneath the hangar like a Thanksgiving Day parade float. It’s lowered into the water, the sail is secured in place and the sailors climb aboard. Their movements are calculated and robotic, making it easy to forget—just for a moment—that Oracle’s modelesque machines are also human, with lives beyond the confines of the dockyard. Spithill admits that his teammates were initially hesitant about moving here. “I think everyone’s adjusting. It’s a big change coming from a place like San Francisco,” he says of the most recent America’s Cup host city. But in just a few short weeks they’ve come to embrace island life, and the island, it seems, has embraced them twofold. For Bermudians, sailing is a religion—and that makes sailors gods. They are ogled as they work out on the beach, high-fived at the gas station and recognized in restaurants. Their presence offers the island a promise of exciting things to come.
NEXT: A Guide to the Best of Bermuda
GOLF: The Mid Ocean Club
Golf enthusiasts are likely familiar with Bermuda’s claim to fame: It has more courses per square mile than anywhere else in the world. If you’re going to play one, though, go with the Mid Ocean Club. It’s the course of choice for Michael Bloomberg and Michael Douglas, both of whom own homes on the island. themidoceanclubbermuda.com
DRINK: Swizzle Inn
Sipping on a syrupy rum swizzle—Bermuda’s “national drink”—at the Swizzle Inn is a rite of passage for visitors. Located in a 17th-century roadhouse, it’s the island’s oldest pub, dating back to 1932. The drinks are as strong as they are sweet, which is probably why they’re served in a glass that barely holds six ounces of liquid. swizzleinn.com
HOTEL FOR ADULTS: Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa
There is perhaps nothing more quintessentially Bermudian than the pink cottages with white limestone roofs sprinkled throughout Cambridge Beaches. It’s not the swankiest property in town—the rooms are rather simple—but it’s arguably the most authentic. Plus, the hotel is located on a 30-acre peninsula with postcard-perfect views and stretches of private beach. cambridgebeaches.com
Like its heritage, the island’s local cuisine represents an amalgamation of cultural influences. So it’s fitting that Marcus Samuelsson—an Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised, New York–based restaurateur—would be the first bona fide “celebrity chef” to make his mark on Bermuda. His namesake restaurant opened in the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club this past May. The airy space has an open kitchen where rockfish (a local favorite) is charred on a wood-burning grill. marcusbermuda.com
HOTEL FOR FAMILIES: Rosewood Tucker’s Point
Tucker’s Point, a 20-minute drive from the hustle and bustle of Hamilton, feels like a secluded world of its own. The aesthetic is decidedly British Colonial, but the hospitality is five-star modern: You won’t find a single blade of grass or cabana cushion out of place. A robust family program keeps kids entertained with cooking classes and outdoor activities. rosewoodhotels.com
BEACH CLUB: Princess Beach Club
Travelers who appreciate the simplicity of a stunning pink-sand beach adore Horseshoe Bay and Elbow Beach, which have long been considered the island’s best. But those seeking a more “full service” experience need look no further than the newly opened Princess Beach Club. There, you’ll find water sports, killer food, hammocks, outdoor showers and—best of all?—WiFi. thehamiltonprincess.com
PRIVATE CLUB: The Coral Beach & Tennis Club
You’ll feel as if you’ve been plucked out of New England and placed gently into the Atlantic at this preppy beachfront club. While membership is by introduction only, Coral Beach has a surprisingly unpretentious vibe (a “house parrot” greets guests in the lobby). For those not in the market to join, spa appointments and squash lessons are open to non-members. coralbeachclub.com
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