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Records could fall as Newport Bermuda Race starts today

Conditions are in place for records to be broken in the 48th Newport Bermuda Race, which starts at 12:30 p.m. today off Castle Hill in Newport, R.I., and finishes off St. David’s Head, Bermuda.

Winds were blowing at about 15 knots in Newport this morning from the northeast and are predicted to build down the course and across the Gulf Stream, then lighten around Bermuda’s “Happy Valley” on Sunday.

There are 166 entries for the 635-mile race, which was first run in 1906. Rambler, a Reichel/Pugh 90 from Hartford, Conn., is one of the largest boats and an early favorite.

“If the weather sets up as predicted, Rambler should beat us by three hours,” said Chris Branning, navigator for the competitor Reichel/Pugh 74 Team Tiburon. “A windy reach or a run are Rambler’s points of sail. She will load the ballast tanks and blast on to Bermuda.”

The Newport Bermuda Race has two records, one for open division boats at 48 hours, 28 minutes, 31 seconds set by Hasso Plattner’s Morning Glory in 2004. The “official” record for traditional designs, set by Roy Disney’s 75-foot Pyewacket, is 53 hours, 39 minutes, 22 seconds.

Organizers anticipate that one or more boats will break the records and finish about midday or sooner on Sunday. The average size of boats in the race is 48 feet. Slower boats will finish the race on Tuesday or later next week.

The fleet can be followed through the Yellowbrick tracker system at http://bermudarace.com. Click on the Race Tracker button on the left side.

Race news is also posted on the Newport Bermuda Race 2012 Facebook page and on Twitter at @BdaRace.

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