A sure sign of a popular regatta is its growth from one edition to the next, and sure enough, the 2022 Safe Harbor Race Weekend in Newport, RI is seeing a 25% jump in registrants over 2021, when it was first introduced to the sailing world. The annual three-day event starts Friday, August 12, and is set to host 62 sailing teams in nine classes aboard boats ranging from 30 to 116 feet in length. The fleet will split into two divisions: Division 1 with racing on Narragansett Bay for ORC, PHRF (A, B & C), Performance Cruising (A & B), and IC37 One-Design classes; and Division 2 with racing on Rhode Island Sound for Superyacht classes (A & B). Venue 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.
“Safe Harbor Race Weekend is a chance for sailors to enjoy three unforgettable days of shoreside events, revelries and racing excitement at Safe Harbor locations in Newport, Portsmouth and Jamestown, Rhode Island,” said Safe Harbor President Rives Potts (Westbrook, Conn.), an accomplished racing sailor who has registered his 48-foot classic yacht Carina in the regatta. “Participants and their guests will be treated to a host of festivities including a Friday evening Opening Dinner presented by BMW and a celebratory Saturday night ‘Talk of the Town’ Crew Party presented by X Shore.” According to the event’s social schedule, Friday’s event at Safe Harbor New England Boatworks offers panoramic sunset views of Narragansett Bay and casual coastal cuisine, while Saturday’s event at Safe Harbor Newport Shipyard features live music and a mariner’s feast.
Potts conceded that as memorable as these shoreside opportunities promise to be – and with no doubt, they left indelible impressionslast year – they are secondary to the assurance of good, quality racing on the water. “First and foremost, it’s about the competition,” he said, adding that there is something for everyone to enjoy, including multiple windward-leeward courses on two days for ORC and PHRF; a single navigator’s course on each of two days for Performance Cruising classes; and an “Around Prudence Island Race” for those classes to enjoy (weather permitting) on one day. The IC37 class will race windward/leeward courses all three days on Narragansett Bay, while the Superyachts will race navigator’s courses on Rhode Island Sound all three days.
“All but two of last year’s champions are returning,” said Potts, “which is another testimony to the regatta’s strong foothold going into its second year.”
A Favored Few to Watch
Last year’s ORCand overall winner JimMadden (Newport Beach, Calif.) will sail again in ORC with his same seasoned crew aboard his Carkeek 47 Stark Raving Mad. “We had some great, competitive racing at last year’s inaugural event and are looking forward to some exciting and even more competitive racing this year,” he said. “We are expecting the ORC competition (currently with five boats) to be intense. The 52-footers Vesper (David Team, Newport Beach, Calif.) and Fox(Victor Wild, San Diego, Calif.) will be very tough to beat. We have our work cut out for us to do well.”
Certain to play out with tight racing will be the contest in the 11-boat IC37 class, which comes new to the regatta this year. “Safe Harbor Race Weekend will be the fourth regatta of five in the IC37 Summer Series,” said Steve Liebel (Tampa, Fla.), who with his boat New Wave won the 2022 IC37 National Championship held here in July as part of the New York Yacht Club’s Race Week at Newport, “so all of the teams will be looking for every point possible to take into our final regatta of the season, the IC37 North American Championship (scheduled for this September in Newport).”
Two of last year’s winners from separate PHRF classes – Joe Brito’s (Bristol, RI) J/121 Incognito and Mark and Cory Sertl’s (Rochester, N.Y./Jamestown, R.I.) Farr 30 Das Blau Max, will meet head-to-head in the ten-boat PHRF B class. “As to our expectations, we are just hoping for good breeze,” said Mark Sertl, who added that in addition to wife Cory, daughter Katja plus two old friends from Rochester and two other local long-time team members will comprise Das Blau Max’s crew. “In handicap racing, with such a diverse class, each dog will have its day. Being the smallest boat in the class, we need to get off the line with a lane and then play lane management until the boats spread out.”
Hawk, the Evelyn 32 owned by Richard Barker and his daughter Katie Barker (Newport, R.I.), will return to the eight-boat PHRF C class, which it won last year. “As in all regattas, the lineups change and the competitors are in many cases different, as are the weather and sailing conditions,” said Richard Barker, “so we hope we can perform well and take the results as they come. Winning last year was hard-fought against the best competition we faced all season. We of course would love to repeat; however, looking down the list of PHRF competitors I see many of the best sailors and boats from Narragansett Bay.”
John Santa’s (Southport, Conn.) Swan 46 Galadriel returns as defending champion in the seven-boat Performance Cruising Spinnaker A class. “The racing is point-to-point but it’s not in a straight line and it’s not around buoys,” said Galadriel’s skipper Stephen DeVoe (Jamestown, R.I.) about the navigator’s courses that distinguish this class from most of the others. “It’s around government marks and typically we have a good bit of upwind and downwind work, so it makes it fun.” DeVoe added that also fun is the family aspect; his daughter, son-in-law and grandkids sail on the boat as does Santa’s grandkids and son, Devin, whom DeVoe calls the team’s secret weapon. “Everyone on the boat is either a Santa or DeVoe, and that’s between nine and 13 crew, however many show up!”
The Superyachts have expanded their competition schedule this year to three days, up from two last year, and will use handicap ratings, size and sailing characteristics to split into their two classes. Hap Fauth’s (Minneapolis, Minn./Naples, Fla.) custom HJB Whisper, at 119’ and the largest yacht in the regatta, looks to be a frontrunner for the four-boat Superyacht B class, as it finished second last year to PERSEUS^3, which was unable to return.
“It’s more competitive to sail in two classes where all the boats are more similar in size,” said Whisper’s Captain Simon Davison (Newport, RI), “and especially on these large boats where you need to pull so many people together, three races make the effort worthwhile. Whisper’s crew (numbering into the 20s) is largely Corinthian as opposed to all paid professionals, which means friendly rivalry and having a good time are the most important things.”
In its second year, Safe Harbor Race Weekend has grown in stature as well as size, attracting hundreds of sailors from across the country and on a healthy variety of boats while striking a perfect balance of racing and social options. With all of that, it has caused quite a stir on the waterfront and a buzz around town. Sure enough, it has established itself as a classic.