They’re Baaaaack

This week, Newport, Rhode Island will host the largest-ever U.S. gathering of 12 Metre yachts.
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The International 12 Metre Class will hold its 2019 World Championship in Newport this summer.

The International 12 Metre Class will hold its 2019 World Championship in Newport this summer.

If you still yearn for the good ol’ days when the America’s Cup was sailed on 12 Metre yachts in Newport, Rhode Island, and sailors from around the world milled around Thames Street, then you may want to mark your calendar.

From July 8 to 13, the International 12 Metre Class will hold its 2019 World Championship in Newport. The gathering is expected to be the largest-ever of 12 Metre yachts in the United States, with more than two dozen boats from seven countries.

The races will be sailed on Rhode Island Sound, where nine America’s Cup competitions were held from 1958 through 1983. The event will include boats built between 1928 and 1987, including seven America’s Cup defenders and challengers. Two of them, Intrepid and Courageous, twice successfully defended the Cup.

This past September, nine Twelves raced in the 12 Metre North American Championships in Newport, but the Worlds will be a larger event with boats from countries not ordinarily associated with the America’s Cup, such as Denmark, Finland and Norway, in addition to the more traditional competitors from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Italy, New Zealand and the United States.

Twelve Metres are generally thought of as America’s Cup boats, but the first 12 Metre rule dates back to 1907. Twelves were used in the 1908, 1912 and 1920 Olympics, where on two occasions participation was so low that competitors were guaranteed a medal by simply racing. In 1920, two Norwegian Twelves were the only entrants, and both crews won gold medals because the boats had been designed under two different Twelve rules (1907 and 1919).

The 112-year-old class is associated with some of the greatest naval architects of all time, including Olin Stephens, Clinton Crane, William Fife III, Philip Rhodes, Johan Anker and Ben Lexcen. After the New York Yacht Club lost the Cup to Alan Bond’s Australia II in 1983, 12 Metres were used one more time for the 1987 America’s Cup. When the Cup competition subsequently switched to other yacht designs, the popularity of the 12 Metre Class suddenly waned. This century, Twelves have seen a significant revival, with sailors restoring boats that had lingered unused in sheds for decades.

The Worlds will be held over five racing days in four divisions: Grand Prix, Modern, Traditional and Vintage. The courses will resemble those used during the America’s Cup between the mouth of Narragansett Bay and Brenton Reef in the Atlantic Ocean.

The races will be hosted by the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, the International Twelve Metre Association America’s Fleet and the 12 Metre Yacht Club.

If you can’t make it to Newport for the Worlds, the Pre-Worlds will be held July 6 and 7. 

This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue.