A couple of weekends ago, we and our boat partners headed out from Newport, R.I. for a Sunday afternoon of sailing aboard our 45 foot sloop Lime’n. We rolled out the sails and had a lovely, leisurely sail out East Passage past the Newport mansions and craggy shoreline. There were dozens if not hundreds of sailboats out on the bay and on Rhode Island Sound. In summer Newport is a sailor’s paradise.
We were heading seaward to intercept the old and now restored whaling ship the Charles W. Morgan that normally resides in Mystic, Connecticut. The ship was making a tour of Southern New England to show off all her new planking and new paint.
We fell in with the small escort fleet around the Morgan and sailed slowly back toward the bay. As we did, a huge fleet of Etchells under tow steamed past us. They were quitting racing for the day and heading back to the barn. These weren’t just locals out beer can racing. No, these were the crews training for the upcoming Etchells World Championships in Newport and some of the best sailors on the planet. Among them, no less, was the great Australian skipper John Bertrand who had won the America’s Cup in Australia III in 1983 breaking the longest winning streak in sporting and yachting history (132 years).
Back in the bay we spotted a huge schooner anchored between Goat and Rose Islands and with nothing better to do we sailed over to see what she might be. It was the Atlantic, a 183 foot, three-masted schooner, which was launched in 2010 and is an exact replica of the original Atlantic. Long, lean and majestic, the Atlantic looked like a thoroughbred ready to run. Speed is and was her thing. In 1905, the original Atlantic set the record for the Atlantic passage from New York to the Lizard in England in 12 days, four hours and one minute, a record that stood unbroken for 93 years.
For us, part of a leisurely Sunday afternoon cruise aboard Lime’n is to make a circuitous tour of Newport Harbor to see what boats might be there. The harbor was filled with sailboats of all shapes and sizes. This is a sailor’s Mecca and you can see why so many have settled here.
We turned around the corner to see what was at the Newport Shipyard and found, among the maxi racing boats and giant sailing and motor yachts, the enormous modern trimaran Spindrift. This modern, technological marvel is a 130-foot all carbon wing-masted rocket ship—the Atlantic of our times. Spindrift was in Newport in preparation to challenge the transatlantic record that had once belonged to Atlantic. The goal: New York to the Lizard in less than 3 days, 15 hours and 25 minutes at an average speed over the 3,000-mile route of more than 32.9 knots. Wow.
The sun was getting low so we headed back to our mooring. Along the way we were hailed by someone on the Nat Herreshoff designed New York 50 Spartan (built in 1915) that had just come in from racing in the New York Yacht Club regatta. It was our son Simon who was sailing as navigator.
“Hey, Dad,’ Si called. “We won our class.”
Yes, such are the simple pleasures of an afternoon sailing with friends in a place a lot of sailors call home.