Newport, Rhode Island has something in common with Annapolis, Maryland and San Diego, California. All three cities are compelling contenders for the title of sailing capital of the world. A visit to any of the three is a thrilling experience for novice to expert sailors as well as those who simply love a port town.
Newport’s prime location on the Narragansett Bay has made it ideal for trade, pleasure, sport, and business sailing since the city was found in the 1600s. In the 18th century it became a worldwide, maritime training center. Today, the Navy uses Newport as one of its training centers and high society families spend the season in their summer cottages. Luckily, you do not have to be part of the military or a wealthy family to explore and enjoy the sailing culture in Newport.
The grand opening of the new Sailing Museum is in May 2022. The museum is an interactive experience that is accessible to all. Experienced sailors get to delight in their favorite sport. Novice sailors and those who have never ridden the waves find themselves drawn to the water.
- Upon entering the museum, guests are given the opportunity to choose from one of seven boats to guide them through the exhibits. A short quiz is available to help new sailors choose the perfect boat for their experience.
- Once the boat is chosen, guests traverse through six thematic exhibits with their chosen boat in mind: Wind & Water, The Making of a Sailor: Mental, The Making of a Sailor: Physical, Teamwork, and Competition.
- The sixth thematic area, Legends of Sailing: National Sailing Hall of Fame and America’s Cup Hall of Fame, highlights the fact that the museum houses both of these treasures. More than 175 sailing legends are honored under one roof.
- Guests get to learn about the central parts of a boat and then put their knowledge to the test by attempting to design a boat themselves.
- The unique immersive film dome provides a chance to feel what it is like to sail all while still standing on land.
- The tactician is responsible for knowing the course and up-to-date rules of sailing. While much of sailing is a physical venture, visitors can try to match wits by making their own decisions as they learn about the mental aspect of the sport.
- As visitors work through the exhibits, they can earn virtual badges.
Newport’s own IYRS School of Technology and Trades has a world-renowned program in Boatbuilding and Restoration. The 20-month program is ACCSC (Accrediting Commission of Career School and Colleges) accredited. During the program, students take part in restoring two historic wooden boats. A highlight for many students is the day the restored boats are launched into Newport Harbor. The school also features a 6-month Marine Systems program that teaches students how to install, repair, and troubleshoot all aspects of a powerboat. IYRS restored boats are for sale at competitive prices.
If you want to see sailboats up close and in action, visit Newport during one of the many races and events that happen throughout the year.
- The Newport Bermuda Race has a 100+ year history. Sailors from across the world compete in the biennial June race that navigates across 635 miles. In the past, more than 150 boats (the centennial race attracted 265 boats) participate in the oldest regularly scheduled ocean race. There are very few international races and this is one of only two held mostly out of sight of land. Weather, wind, and waves all play a part in the race that can take between two and six days to complete. The record for the fastest boat is held by Comanche; it finished the race in only 34 hours, 42 minutes, and 53 seconds in 2016.
- The Annapolis to Newport Race is held on opposite years from the Newport Bermuda Race. Competitors test their skills in the 475-mile race that ends in Newport. Until 1957, the race started in Newport and ended in Annapolis. The northbound course has held since then.
- The Newport International Boat Show is held in September each year. It is one of the largest boat shows in the country and features new sailboats and powerboats. Over 13 acres of downtown Newport are devoted to the show. Attendees can attend seminars, take in-water boating courses, shop for boating accessories, and hope they get lucky with daily giveaways.
The Ocean Race begins in Alicante, Spain and ends eight months later in Genoa, Italy. The 2022-23 race has only one North American stopover and Newport is excited to be that location. Newport is also one of only ten stops during the 38,000 nautical mile race.