The Royal Naval Dockyard is simply called Dockyard by locals. Once known as the “Gibraltar of the West,” Britain’s largest naval base outside the United Kingdom is now filled with adventure, local culture and luxury. West End Development Corporation (WEDCO) has been guiding the development of Dockyard since 1982 and strives to continually develop the area as a world-class destination built proudly on the past, with a clear view of the future. The challenge for most visitors is choosing what to do first, as there is always a variety of events and amenities for adults and families available both day and night. For up-to-date event and amenity details, please visit The Royal Naval Dockyard’s website or Facebook page. (234-1709; dockyardbermuda.com)
Home of the 35th America’s Cup
In May, the best sailors in the world convene in Dockyard for the 35th America’s Cup, presented by Louis Vuitton. The pinnacle of international sailing, the America’s Cup has generated intense excitement and fierce rivalries for more than 160 years. Now, for the first time, this premier event takes place in Bermuda, an island founded on a legacy of sailing.
A nine-acre “island” has been created at Dockyard and provides the host venue for what is going to be “the best in the history of the sailing race event,” according to Sir Russell Coutts, the CEO of the America’s Cup Event Authority.
This new addition to Bermuda’s landmass embraces the America’s Cup Event Village and features two team bases, a pit row, food and beverage venues, entertainment and concerts. It also provides prime viewing for the sleek, AC45F racing catamarans competing for the celebrated “Auld Mug,” the affectionate nickname for the ornate silver “cup” of America’s Cup. It is not only the oldest trophy in international sport; it predates the modern Olympic Games by 45 years and is yachting’s biggest prize.
These fast, foiling “cats” are a far cry from the stately schooners that competed in the first Cup race in England, won by the New York Yacht Club entry, the yacht America.
Thus began a winning streak that saw the cup remain in U.S. hands for 132 years, hence the cup’s familiar title, “The America’s Cup,” named for the yacht, not the nation.
Racing in Bermuda’s Great Sound starts with the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers on May 26, 2017. Six teams from the U.S., U.K., Japan, New Zealand, France and Sweden compete in heats throughout several competitive weeks to be the successor to face defending champions, ORACLE TEAM USA, in the 35th America’s Cup Match beginning on June 17, 2017. For more information on the America’s Cup, visit acbda.bm.
Dive into History
After losing the American War of Independence in 1783, and with no American ports at their disposal, Britain sought a port in the mid-Atlantic, between Halifax and the West Indies, from which it could face off America and France and also easily access its interests in the Caribbean. Bermuda’s central geographic position, as you might guess, made it a prime choice.
In 1809, slaves laid the first local stones that would become The Royal Naval Dockyard’s foundation; and convicts from Britain followed as the next wave of labourers after emancipation. From the War of 1812 until just after World War II, the Royal Naval Dockyard and the base played an integral role in strategic defence for Britain. It wasn’t until 1951 that the Royal Navy officially pulled out from Bermuda. And in the first years after the Bermuda government purchased Dockyard in 1953, the area saw little use and began to fall into disrepair. But soon enough, plans were set into motion to preserve Dockyard as a public gathering ground and park.
Immerse yourself in 500 years of history at the National Museum of Bermuda, housed within the island’s largest fort. The 15-acre property includes British military buildings of the Keep citadel and the award-winning Commissioner’s House. Inside its historic limestone walls, learn about Bermuda’s cultural links with the West Indies and the Azores, trans-Atlantic slavery, and the island’s defense through two World Wars. Marvel at local artist Graham Foster’s 1,000-square-foot mural of Bermuda history and other maritime art. Explore the collection of small local watercraft and Shipwreck Island: Sunken Clues to Bermuda’s Past, an exhibit showcasing Spanish gold, colonial trade goods and other artefacts recovered from local shipwrecks. Kids will love the whimsical Museum Playground & Playhouse, complete with maritime interactives and a 70-foot moray eel. Open April through November from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last admission 4 p.m.); December through March from 10 a.m.to 5 p.m. (last admission at 4 p.m.). Adults, $15; seniors, $12; free for children under 16. (234-1418, 234-1333; nmb.bm)
One of the most entertaining ways to learn about Dockyard’s fascinating history is the free Historical Reenactment and Walking Tour. Experience this amazing look into the past. For specific dates and times, visit dockyardbermuda.com.