August 18, 2022

Local Sailors Compete in Essex 12 Meter Challenge

Intrepid, crewed by Essex Corinthians, in action during the 2011 Essex 12 Meter Challenge.

Newport’s Museum of Yachting at Fort Adams was the rendezvous point for over 110 sailors from the Essex, Essex  Corinthian, Pettipaug, and Niantic Bay Yacht Clubs for the 2011 Essex 12 Meter Challenge on Saturday, June 18, 2011.

Following a week of rain and questionable forecasts, the conditions were perfect as sailors boarded eight historic 12 Meter yachts for an afternoon of exciting racing in Narragansett Bay.

Wearing team red shirts, crews from the Essex Yacht Club manned Onawa, the oldest 12 Meter in existence, and American Eagle, a 1964 America’s Cup contender raced by Ted Turner to win the World Ocean Racing title in 1970.

Three crews from the Essex Corinthian in blue boarded Intrepid, the legendary two time America’s Cup winner in 1967 and 1970; Weatherly,  America’s Cup Winner in 1962; and Gleam, build in 1937 and used as a trial horse in the 1958 America’s Cup defense.

In black club polo’s, the Pettipaug team crewed Heritage, a contender in the 1970 defense.

Finally, two crews in white shirts from Niantic Bay manned Columbia, winner of the 1958 America’s Cup, and Northern Light, launched in 1938 and used as a trial horse in the 1958, ’62, and ’64 defenses.

As the 12’s headed into Narragansett Bay, the fleet was met not only with a stiff 15 to 20 knot breeze from the south but also by the awesome sight of the J Class regatta of Velsheda and Ranger staging their first competitive race in Newport since the 1937 America’s Cup.

For the Essex 12 Meter Challenge, a windward –leeward race course started at the north end of Gould and rounded a leeward mark just north of the Newport Bridge.

The fleet was divided into three classes, Vintage, Classic, and Modern.

The Vintage Class included Onawa, Gleam, and Northern Light.   The Classic Class consisted of American Eagle, Columbia, and Weatherly.   The Modern Class pitted Heritage against Intrepid.

The fleet engaged in four very competitive races with all eight 12’s crossing the starting line at once.

In the Classic class, following two outstanding starts, Weatherly (Essex Corinthian) suffered a broken outhaul twice, requiring the crew to improvise a solution to compete well in the final two races.   American Eagle and Columbia experienced very close races with American Eagle (Essex) nudging Columbia (Niantic Bay) for first place in the class.

For the Modern class, Heritage and Intrepid (Essex Corinthian) traded first places between the first and second race.  However, Intrepid was ruled over the starting line early on two occasions, giving first places honors to Heritage (Pettipaug).

In the Vintage Class, Onawa (Essex) earned the first place trophy after several very competitive back and forth races, giving the Essex Yacht Club its second first place trophy on the day.

Following the races, boats and crews returned to the Museum of Yachting for a results party and the story telling that naturally follows any sailing event.   Trophies were awarded to the top two finishers in each class.   To top off the event, each club presented their burgee to be added to the Museum’s historic collection.

The 2011 Essex 12 Meter Challenge embodied the best of great fellowship among fellow yachtsmen and women sailing incredible boats in a grand location.