by Safe Harbor Race Weekend

For a first-time event that’s yet to happen, Safe Harbor Race Weekend has garnered an impressive amount of momentum. The three-day sailing regatta, scheduled for its inaugural edition over August 13-15 in Newport, R.I., will see 46 teams competing on Narragansett Bay in six classes for ORC, PHRF (A and B), Performance Cruising (Spinnaker and Non-Spinnaker), and Superyachts. Location hosts are Safe Harbor Newport Shipyard, Safe Harbor New England Boatworks, and Safe Harbor Jamestown Boatyard, with Safe Harbor organizing the social activities ashore and Premiere Racing, a renowned regatta management team, managing the on-water competition. 

“Our goal is to raise the bar for anyone who enjoys sailboat racing or the boating lifestyle, for that matter,” said Safe Harbor President Rives Potts (Westbrook, Conn.), who will compete in ORC class aboard his McCurdy & Rhodes-designed Carina, a classic 48-foot sloop famous for completing 22 Newport to Bermuda Races and, under Potts’s command, winning overall honors twice and her class six times. “In addition to windward-leeward courses there is an “Around Conanicut Island Race” and navigator’s courses for cruising boats, so it’s not just for hot-shots who are exceptional at short-course racing…there is something for everyone to enjoy, including parties ashore after racing.” 

Rives Potts at the helm of Carina (supplied photo)

While the regatta is open to all sailors, Safe Harbor Members have been specially invited to enjoy the racing and/or participate in post-racing events. Social highlights include an opening Friday evening Coastal New England Dinner on The Point (overlooking Narragansett Bay) at Safe Harbor New England Boatworks and a celebratory Saturday evening “Talk of the Town” Crew Party and dinner featuring live music at Safe Harbor Newport Shipyard (in downtown Newport). 

“We like that the organizers are putting an emphasis on the crews with the parties,” said Diana Sutton (Houston, TX), who will sail with her husband Tom Sutton aboard their J/109 Leading Edge, also in ORC. “If you can make the crews happy, they’ll want to sail more, which means we can sail more!” The Suttons, who enjoy sailing in Newport every summer and won the J/109 East Coast Championships in 2019, said their mostly all-Texan crew jumped at the chance to spend three days racing here. “Sailing is ready for a rebound,” said Tom Sutton, “and I think Safe Harbor is going to hit a home run with this event.”

Two others who are excited about this inaugural event are Daniel Heun (Franklin, MA), skipper of the J/122 Moxiee, and Curt Spalding (Cranston, RI), skipper of the Dufour 36 Serenity. Both will sail in PHRF A and base out of Safe Harbor Greenwich Bay in Warwick, R.I. They will move their boats to Safe Harbor Newport Shipyard and Safe Harbor New England Boatworks, respectively, for the duration of the event.

“My expectation is along the same lines as a New York Yacht Club regatta,” said Heun, a regular winner on the New England racing circuit. “A good format each day and evening…a couple of racing circles, windward/leewards around the buoys, racing around the island…a good variety, if you will. A few of my crew will stay on the boat. Some are locals, so they’ll stay in town, and a few are coming in from New York and New Jersey, so they’ve arranged accommodations. Newport is easy to get to, plus it has so much to offer while not racing.”

Said Spalding, who has raced on the Bay for decades: “There are a good number of boats entered, so that’s a good sign. It’s the right time of the year; a good time to race on the Bay; and there are lots of boats I know are very competitive. I’ll be happy if I finish in the top half of my fleet and continue learning this boat, which I’ve only owned for three years.”

Weather permitting, all classes will sail around Conanicut Island on Friday. Saturday will include the spectacle of eight Superyachts – including the 138’ J Class Boat Hanuman, the 123’ Dubois Custom Anemoi, the 116’ HJB Custom Whisper, and the 109’ Sloop Nakupenda – sailing by Castle Hill and racing in the vicinity of Cliff Walk, while ORC and PHRF classes sail ‘round-the-buoy courses north of the Pell Bridge. ORC and PHRF Classes will repeat Saturday’s scenario on Sunday. (Superyachts complete their series Saturday; therefore, they will not sail on Sunday.)

For more information on Safe Harbor Race Weekend and daily releases/results, visit https://shmarinas.com/safe-harbor-race-weekend/.

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Ryan Belmore has been the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp since 2012. He also currently works for Mountain News, where he serves as Senior Editor - North America for OnTheSnow. He previously worked for the New England Patriots and American Cancer Society. He currently serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).