Harken Derm

Hazy Memories of Newport

Published on September 19th, 2018

Joe Cooper, columnist of Coop’s Corner in WindCheck magazine, orates on the experience of the haze, the noise and the smell of Rhode Island Sound.


Summer in Newport is spelt SAILING. Apart from the usual “even year” events – the Bermuda Race (go MudRatz!!!) and the Offshore 160 – there are the annual events. The (10) NYYC regattas, weekday evening sailing: Monday (sport boats); Tuesday & Wednesday (Shields & PHRF); and Thursday (J/24s); the Ida Lewis Distance Race. Then there’s the New England Solo Twin, and the I420 World Championship at Sail Newport. And there’s still the rest of September to go.

At Newport Shipyard, one can see several corners of the Sailing Universe in one spot. Mirabella Five, now known as M5, has parked her quite impressive 77 meters one dock south of Spindrift, the 40-meter French tri standing by for a shot at the transatlantic speed record.

There are race boats, some old woodies including Bolero, a W-Class and miscellaneous niffy little boats. And parked between the 40 to 60-meter powerboats arrayed up the east side of the harbor is the visiting Viking longship, Draken Harald Hårfagre.

A biscuit toss northward from the Hårfagre lie several older 12 Metres, defenders and contenders all: Intrepid, Weatherly and Columbia. Weatherly has a close connection for me, to sailing, the U.S., Newport and the America’s Cup.

It was she who was passed by Gretel in one of the races in 1962, and the voice of the ecstatic, almost-screaming-with-excitement Aussie announcer crackling over the airwaves kept this seven-year-old mesmerized until his mum drug him out of bed by the scruff of his jammies and shoved him off to school.

The America’s Cup is never really that far under the seaweed-strewn high tide line around Newport Harbor, especially since the NYYC took over the Brown House and made it their Newport Station, Harbour Court. On the west porch of this edifice, one can lounge with a cold G&T and gaze across the hazy beauty that is Newport Harbor.

I was reminded of this aspect of Newport as I dawdled along Ocean Drive watching, through the haze, 170 or so I420s coming in from the fabled – nay, hallowed – AstroSurf south of Brenton Point. From the crest of the Newport Bridge, one has a car-crashing view to the south; on clear days to Block Island and the wind farm beyond.

Clear days are a rarity in summer so mostly you can see halfway to Point Judith, just about where the AC races were held during the event’s tenure in Newport.

Many folks have a bit of an ‘Ohhh! Ahhh!’ moment seeing 12s sailing by, so salty and yachtie do they look. I always smile when I hear this, for the look is just literally the surface of these boats.

In my time on them, they were loud, hot, and often slippery tin cans with lots of sharp-edged frames to bang shins against. Down below, they smelt too. That odd combination of stale saltwater, wet sailcloth, sweat, and in the case of Australia, hydraulic oil. Lots of it. – Full Story.

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