The third annual Safe Harbor Race Weekend wrapped up on Sunday after three days of racing that included 66 teams in 11 classes with two divisions for superyachts.
While the nine superyachts ranging from 72 to 138 feet competed on Rhode Island Sound, the remaining nine fleets—including PHRF, ORC and IC37—spread out across Narragansett Bay with tight racing in all divisions.
Highlighting the beauty of the Newport shoreline, the finishes on Saturday for all fleets converged off Fort Adams for some spectacular photo finishes. On Sunday, the superyachts started off Jamestown’s Mackerel Cove and finished just off Newport’s famous Castle Hill and Cliff Walk. With the historic mansions as a backdrop, the spectacle for those both on the water and ashore came as the graceful yachts sailed adjacent to Newport’s famous Cliff Walk and the historic mansions along the way.
Conditions during the regatta ranged from pristine on Friday, to foggy on Saturday, and light but steady on Sunday. Participation in the event has grown since the inaugural edition in 2021, and the regatta is quickly becoming a highpoint of the sailing season in Rhode Island.
The onshore activities harkened back to some classic summer traditions including a New England clambake in the rough on Saturday night, dancing to popular regional bands, and a surge of community participation at the tented outside venue at Safe Harbor New England Boatworks.
The regatta also featured New England sailing at its best and its toughest. Friday was the best sailing day with blue skies, sparkling water, and a steady 15-knot westerly-southwesterly breeze. The first day of racing saw wins for the Ted Fountaine Sloop Nakupenda and the Brooklin Boatyard 76 Zemphira, who went on to win their division overall in Class A and B, respectively.
“It was a total team victory,” said Nakupenda’s owner/driver Steve Rowland. “To do this kind of racing on a boat that was intended for cruising, and to do it with my wife and friends is just a dream come true.”
On Narragansett Bay, sailing in classes for ORC (A and B), PHRF (A, B, C), PHRF Performance Cruising (A, B, C), and IC37 One-Design took to upper Narragansett Bay, and their course included a circumnavigation of Prudence Island. On Friday they sailed a 22-nautical mile course that finished with a leg under the Pell Bridge and a finish off Rose Island not far from where the superyachts were converging for their finish. With a large spectator fleet and on shore viewing, this was a spectacular sight for yachting enthusiasts.
“No question, it [Friday] was one of the better days of sailing,” said Michael D’Amelio, who skippered his J/V 66 Denali. “With flat water (north of the Bridge) and a gusty breeze that reached 22 knots, it was pretty wild…up and down all day long, like racing on a lake.”
In PHRF Performance Cruising A, winner Oakcliff Racing’s R/P 86 OC-86 had a great regatta. “This is the very first time this boat has sailed this year, so it was a huge push for the Oakcliff staff, and we had many new trainees aboard,” said skipper Dawn Riley. “The wind and the course were quite good for OC-86; imagine what would happen if the whole team had been loaded up with pros!”
Most sailors will agree that the Safe Harbor team know how to put together a quality event ashore and on the water. This year was no exception with pristine and challenging conditions on the racecourse that made for some highly competitive and enjoyable racing for sailors and spectators alike.
Barby MacGowan contributed to this report.