Lovers of classic boats were in for a treat this past week in the Ocean State. Not only was there the first-ever J Class World Championship run out of Newport Shipyard, but also the 38th annual Panerai Newport Classic Yacht Regatta, presented by the International Yacht Restoration School, (IYRS) also in Newport, and the Panerai Herreshoff Classic Yacht Regatta at the Herreshoff Museum and Hall of Fame in Bristol. The latter two events now are consolidated into a celebration of classic yachts, both power and sail, that will be known as the Narragansett Bay Classic Yacht Rendezvous. As soon as I started reading about all of this, I immediately asked for the week off, which turned into having Thursday and Friday off, plus the weekend … still a treat!
Thursday morning, I assumed my wharf-rat position on Goat Island facing the basin of Newport Shipyard, where you could see the J Class boats (and their complimentary “tenders”) berthed and chomping at the bit to get sailing. With more than 30 crew to a boat, there was a lot of activity going on pre-race, including some important runs to the ice machine! While the hulls glistened and the brightwork shone, every piece of rigging given a last check. Soon after the ringing of the church bells at St. Johns on the Point, they started out, one at a time, maneuvering out of their slips into Newport Harbor, where a flotilla of spectator boats and well-wishers bobbed around in anticipation of escorting these race horses out to the course.
By Friday I knew what to expect, and I was hanging off the stern of one of Newport’s dayboats to get closer to the spectacle. We had perfect New England summer weather, and I could almost touch the yachts as they passed. A kayaker even warned me about falling into the water! We went to Brenton State Park to watch this majestic parade of sloops, with the tallest masts you’ll probably ever see, head out to the course.
The racing was fabulous. (Aren’t we lucky so many people had their cell phones out, and the professional photographers peppered social media with astounding shots!) I’ll leave the detailed race commentary to the experts, but to the amateur eye, these boats flew, and several races went down to the wire.
From the picnickers at Beavertail Lighthouse and the mimosa set at Castle Hill, to the old-timers at Newport’s fishing pier watching the yachts back into their stalls for the night, I believe there are many, many people who can’t wait for the J Class to return!
Just up Narragansett Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island, what I believe used to be known as the Herreshoff Rendezvous (a tri-annual event back -in the- day) has joined up with Panerai and the Newport/IYRS Classic Yacht Regatta to double-down on this amazing week. Almost 40 wooden boats were on hand, from Herreshoff 12½s and the beautiful sailing yacht Eros to the breathtaking J Class Eleonora and the gloriously restored Ruweida. Two days of racing and socializing were amazing. And almost all of the boats turned out for the annual Newport Harbor Classic Yacht Parade (generally held on Labor Day weekend). What a treat for Sunday brunch at Ida Lewis Yacht Club and the New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court. It was almost like 1983 all over again!