Now in its 43rd year, the Newport Classic Yacht Regatta presented by the International Yacht Restoration School (IYRS) brings together sailors who understand, support, and appreciate the beauty and power of historic sailing yachts. Whether they are racing in the Vintage class against yachts like the L. Francis Herreshoff Ticonderoga or the Crocker’s, Concordias and 12-Metres, seeing these beautiful vessels on the starting line, the purpose feels the same.
“The event is not so much about winning and bragging rights, but this is really a community affair, and we celebrate that Newport has remained such a center for yacht restoration,” said Jens Lange, owner of Baltic Boatworks and regatta director of the Newport Classic Yacht Regatta. “During the 1970s I am told that many of the classic designs were neglected and were barely afloat and needed to be saved. Much of the effort over the past 50 years here—with the founding of the Museum of Yachting and later the International Yacht Restoration School was based on the belief that there was a need to restore these classics and keep them sailing. Today, many of these boats—although very old—are in beautiful condition and are still racing.”
Held over two days on the weekend of September 3 and 4, with a parade of sail on Sunday, the event has evolved and grown over the years to include modern and spirit of traditional yachts. This is achieved in part because of the formation of the Classic Yacht Owners Association and the growing Classic Yacht series, which held 13 regattas up and down the New England coast this past summer.
“The Newport Classic Yacht Regatta is a chance for boat owners to enjoy that spirit of our yachting traditions, and there is great camaraderie among us on the classic circuit,” said captain Guillaume Touhadian of the L. Francis Herreshoff built Ticonderoga. “We do this event every year.”
The starting line featured five classes and yet the awards are configured into different divisions overall. Although Ticonderoga was in Class 1 at the start, she placed 12th in the Vintage division. The top finisher in Class 1 and the Vintage division was the 12-Metre Weatherly.
With the current rating system, many a classic boat can sail in this regatta and do well, and it has broad appeal among the participants. The rating system is so good, according to Lange, that regattas outside of the US would like to adopt it for their events.
The course on Saturday covered 12 miles and with light to moderate breeze, while Sunday was a 14-mile course. The fleet of over 36 boats in five classes spread out around Jamestown and Newport in Narragansett Bay with a late afternoon finish off Fort Adams.
“This is a great group of people to race with and against, but it is a bit more casual racing,” said Ben Hall, owner of the Luders 24 Leaf built in 1944. Leaf placed ninth in the Vintage division after starting in Class 4 against Vintage winner and classic 30 Square Meter Bijou II owned by Chris Bouzaid. Class 1 also featured Cavalino the W Class 37 owned by Donald Tofias, which placed third overall in the Spirt of Tradition class.
One of the great features of the racing is that there is encouragement and development in the Spirit of Tradition and Modern Classic divisions, which encourages yacht builders and designers to honor the legacy of boats like the classic Tripp 37 Hawk owned by Oivind Lorentzen and part of the famed One-Ton fleet which raced for the One Ton Cup, of the RORC 22-foot rule between 1965 and 1970, and then the International Offshore Rule between 1971 and 1994.
“What we like is the emphasis on building out of wood, which makes Hawk a modern classic,” said Lorentzen. “There is a lot of fun in bringing new life to an old boat. Hawk was built as a stripped-down boat at the time but as a wooden boat she has that natural simplicity, making her sea kindly and comfortable. A competition like this brings out the liveliness, however, and that is healthy for a boat.”
Other designers and builders relish the chance to restore, refurbish or refit a beloved classic like Dorade, which participated in the race. Onboard Dorade was yacht designer Greg Stewart who helped work on the restoration of this classic Sparkman and Stephens 52-foot boat owned by Matt Brooks.
“Dorade has such a storied history and is beautifully restored,” said Brooks. “We love that at this event we have both very good competition but also very good fellowship.”
Many of the participants in the Newport Classic Regatta agreed that there is a chance that many of these classic yachts can continue racing and being built in part because of schools like the International Yacht Restoration school. “I have helped with the restoration and design work over my career, but it is this whole school that filled a real void for people who want to learn this craft,” added Stewart. “We now have a whole generation of young people who have 100% placement after graduation and can find work in this field.”
1st Place: BIJOU II/Chris Bouzaid
2nd Place: ONAWA/Mark Watson
3rd Place: DORADE/Matt Brooks
1st Place: WEATHERLY/Stephen Eddleston
2nd Place: RUNE/David Luce
3rd Place: DAME/Joshua Goldberg
Modern Classics Class
1st Place: INTREPID/Jack Curtin
2nd Place: THE HAWK/Oivind Lorentzen
3rd Place: LIVELY LADY/William Hubbard
Spirit of Tradition Class
1st Place and winner of the Joel White Memorial Award, to the spirit of tradition yacht with the best corrected time overall: ZEMPHIRA/Tenacious Holdings
2nd Place: PONYO/Paul Koch
3rd Place: CAVALINO/Donald Tofias
1st Place: BIJOU II/Chris Bouzaid
2nd Place: GAMECOCK/Peter McClennen
3rd Place: PONYO/Paul Koch
1st Place: JOHN DORY/Ed Adams
2nd Place: BIT O HONEY/Ken Deyett
3rd Place: TANTRUM/Jonathan Hough
For more information, please go to iyrs.edu/events/cyr