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John Pitocco

Newport, RI – A Long Tradition of Sailing

The Sailing Capital of the World – Newport has a longstanding sailing history that is evident everywhere in the “City-by-the-Sea” from the many Colonial sea captains’ homes that line the streets of Newport’s downtown, to the busy Newport Harbor that is a destination and home port, to some of the most renowned sailing and motor yachts in the world. Newport even has a busy downtown street, America’s Cup Avenue, dedicated to the most famous sailing race! Since its founding in 1639, Newporters have taken advantage of their city’s seaside location by using sailing for trade, pleasure, sport and business.

In the 18th century, Newport became a worldwide, maritime, trading center. Newport, along with Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, emerged as one of the five leading ports in colonial North America. Economic growth created by maritime trade generated an expansion of Newport’s harbor and downtown. Over 150 wharves were built and sailing, cargo ships crowded Newport Harbor. Many of Newport’s famous landmarks were built during this time, including Trinity Church, the Redwood Library and The Brick Market.

In the 19th century the United States Navy officially sailed into Newport and became the major part of Newport’s economy. During the Civil War the US Naval Academy was temporarily moved to Newport. The USS Constitution and The America, the first America’s Cup winner, were sailing in Newport and were used for midshipmen training while the US Naval Academy was located in Newport.

After the Civil War the Naval Academy was moved back to Annapolis, but the Navy was here to stay in Newport. During this time, the first naval laboratory for torpedo testing was built in Newport Harbor on Goat Island; the Naval Training Station and Naval War College were also established in Newport, RI. Later, Newport and Narragansett Bay were used as a major port for US Navy ships. At one time more than a quarter of the US Navy’s Atlantic Fleet was stationed in Newport, Rhode Island. Today, although Newport is not a home port to the Navy’s ships, there is a retired aircraft carrier at the base. With the Naval War College and other training facilities still in Newport, the Navy continues to be an important part of Newport’s economy.

Later in the 19th century, Newport Harbor went from being a maritime trading center to a sailing playground for the rich and famous. During this time many of America’s most influential businessmen, with names like Vanderbilt, Astor, Belmont and Berwind, built summer homes in Newport, Rhode Island. With this influx of wealth into Newport, Newport Harbor became a major yachting destination. The Vanderbilts, the Astors, the Manvilles, J.P. Morgan and many more all brought their luxurious sailing yachts to Newport, Rhode Island. In 1883 Newport came into the sailing spotlight when the New York Yacht Club held its first annual regatta in Newport. Newport was also added as a stop on the NYYC Annual Cruise from New York to New England. As the interest in Newport sailing grew, two local yacht clubs were formed – the Newport Yacht Club in 1893 and the Ida Lewis Yacht Club in 1928. The New York Yacht Club also officially came to Newport and formed station #9, a Newport clubhouse, for their yachting events. The Newport, NYYC clubhouse has been the center of an impressive number of international sailing events, including America’s Cup sailing defenses, the Annapolis to Newport race, and the World Championships of the One Ton Ocean Racers from around the world.

For over fifty years of the 20th century, the most coveted sailing race in the world was held in Newport – the America’s Cup. Since the first America’s Cup defense in 1870, the New York Yacht Club held the America’s Cup races in New York. However, in the 1930’s, after an increased interest in the “City-by-the-Sea’s” sailing, the New York Yacht Club brought the America’s Cup sailing races to a new venue – Newport, Rhode Island. During the 1930’s the spectacular J-Boats sail raced for the America’s Cup. At over 100 feet long and with a crew of over 20, men the building and sailing of these yachts was a very expensive endeavor. Some of Newport’s most wealthy summertime residents were very active in America’s Cup sailing including Harold Vanderbilt who funded campaigns and sailed in the 1930, 1934, and 1937 America’s Cup in Newport, Rhode Island.

In 1958, after a halt in America’s Cup sailing because of war, the 12 Meter yachts brought a new era of America’s Cup racing to Newport. The 12 Meters raced off the coast of Newport from 1958 to 1983 when, for the first time in over 130 years, the America’s Cup was lost by the New York Yacht Club and won by Australia. For more information about America’s Cup sailing in Newport please visit our America’s Cup History page or our 12 Meter History page.

Despite the loss of the America’s Cup, sailing remains a tradition in Newport, Rhode Island. Narragansett Bay and Newport Harbor are busier than ever with large and small sailing boats. Major sailing regattas are started, finished and held in Newport. The Newport to Bermuda sailing race is started in Newport biennially, in June. The start of the race brings racing and spectator sailing yachts to Newport. Single-handed races, trans-Atlantic and round the world races use Newport as a starting and finishing port. Sailing tours, team-building sail races, and charter sails are a major attraction for Newport’s corporate and private visitors.


By offering sails aboard the America’s Cup yachts, 12 Meter Charters strives to keep the tradition of sailing alive in Newport. Private and corporate visitors agree that sailing aboard our yachts is an experience not to be missed in Newport! With its refreshing ocean breezes, beautiful coastline, and magnificent sights, Newport, Rhode Island offers an unparalleled sailing experience. We invite you to come sailing with 12 Meter Charters and experience why Newport is considered the “sailing capital of the world!”

Newport’s Annual 12 Meter Regatta Sailing

Newport proudly displays its America’s Cup sailing history. There are America’s Cup sailing museums in Newport, a Newport street is named after the America’s Cup, and many previous America’s Cup J-Boat and 12 Meter boats can be seen sailing in Newport during the summer. However, nowhere is Newport’s America’s Cup sailing history more evident than in Newport’s annual 12 Meter sailing regattas. Newport is now the home of the largest fleet of America’s Cup 12 Meters in the world, most of which are available for charter through 12 Meter Charters. Therefore, it is no surprise, that Newport has become the capital of 12 Meter racing and sailing. The following are Annual 12 Meter Regattas that are held in Newport:

  • New York Yacht Club’s Annual Regatta – June
  • New York Yacht Club’s Race Week – July (biennially)
  • Museum of Yachting’s Classic Yacht Regatta and Parade – September
  • 12 Meter Championships – September

Are you interested in sailing in one of Newport’s annual 12 Meter regattas? 12 Meter Charters offers yachts to compete in any of these Newport regattas and many more sailing regattas around New England. Racing in Newport, Rhode Island aboard an America’s Cup 12 Meter boat is an incomparable sailing experience! Please contact the 12 Meter Charters’ office for more information about sailing regatta charters.

Newport Sailing Events and Regattas

Newport, Rhode Island, “sailing capital of the world,” has many other annual sailing events. Although our 12 Meter boats do not participate in these events, they are available for viewing most of these exciting sailing events!

  • Newport’s Spring Boat Show – May
  • Newport to Bermuda Sailing Race – June
  • Annapolis to Newport Sailing Race – June
  • Newport International Boat Show – September
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