After sailing for the world championship in Finland’s capital of Helsinki in 2021, the biennial event to crown the top 12 Metres on Earth will return to Narragansett Bay in 2023.
The fleet represents the America’s Cup class that sailed in Rhode Island Sound from 1958-83 while it was competing for the Auld Mug. The class’ world championship in 2019 also was in Newport, and the Ida Lewis Yacht Club was awarded the St. Petersburg Trophy by U.S. Sailing for excellence in race management for that edition.
“It’s very special that this event is returning to Newport, especially because of the rich history this city shares with the America’s Cup,” said Peggy Hersam, executive director of the 12 Metre Yacht Club Newport Station, which is the official home of the North American fleet. “A large concentration of 12 Metres, many of which have ties to the cup, make their home in Newport. However, the fleet is worldwide and going strong. It will be amazing for visitors and locals alike to encounter these iconic boats tuning up for and competing in this most important event.”
Leading up to the worlds, which is scheduled from July 31 through Aug. 5, the 12 Metre fleet will race a full schedule from its base in Newport, including two class-sanctioned regattas, the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta, June 9-11, and the Sail Newport Regatta, July 7-9, which will serve as the pre-world championship.
The worlds will be divided into five divisions: Modern, Traditional, Vintage, Grand Prixe and Spirit of Tradition. The fleet will include returning 2019 world champions Columbia in the Traditional Division and Challenge XII, owned by Jamestown resident Jack LeFort, in the Modern Division. Other teams expected to compete include American Eagle, Courageous, Defender, Enterprise, Freedom, Gleam, Intrepid, Nefertiti, Onawa and Weatherly.
Weatherly’s owner and skipper, Steve Eddleston, who also serves as commodore of the 12 Metre Yacht Club Newport Station, said his work will be cut out for him.
“It’s always exhilarating to be out on the water with our beautiful boat and our skilled and determined team sailing against other world famous 12 Metre yachts of such historic distinction,” said Eddleston. “To paraphrase John F. Kennedy from 60 years ago when he spoke in Newport about the America’s Cup duel between Weatherly and Gretel, ‘We are most certainly racing against each other, but we are also racing with each other against the wind and the sea.’ Nothing comes close to competing in a 12 Metre world event.”
The 112-year-old international 12 Metre class encompasses a living history of racing yacht design by the world’s foremost naval architects, including Olin Stephens, Clinton Crane, William Fife III, Philip Rhodes, Johan Anker and Ben Lexcen. They pushed their designs to the very limits of innovations, and the resulting boats represented the pinnacle of yacht development from 1907-87 for the highest levels of international sailing competition: the Olympic Games (1908-20) and the America’s Cup (1958-87).