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A Q&A with Veronica Brown on the inaugural Safe Harbor Race Weekend

by David Schmidt 11 Aug 16:00 BST August 13-15, 2021
The inaugural Safe Harbor Race Weekend will take place on the waters of Rhode Island's iconic Narragansett Bay © Image courtesy of Stephen Cloutier

New regattas are somewhat rare events in sailing and are worth celebrating, especially when the event in question involves multiple days of racing on iconic waters. If this sounds interesting, say hello to the inaugural Safe Harbor Race Weekend, which is slated to unfurl on the waters of Narragansett Bay, just off of Newport, Rhode Island, from August 13-15, 2021.

As its name suggests, the regatta is sponsored by Safe Harbors Marinas (shmarinas.com). As its NOR specifies, the event is open to monohulls and multihulls that are at least 30 feet, LOA. The regatta will feature several different handicap classes on both the shorter inshore and longer navigator's courses.

Fifty-plus boats were registered at the time of this writing, with entrants ranging from a Dufour 325, to a Reichel Pugh 86, to a custom 193-footer (Perseus^3), with plenty of other talent-packed teams in between.

I checked in with Veronica Brown, Safe Harbor Marinas' director of experiences, via email, to learn more about this exciting inaugural race weekend.

Where did the idea/inspiration for the Safe Harbor Race Weekend come from? Also, how long has the planning for the inaugural race been taking place?

Newport is a sailing town. Narragansett Bay has hosted some of the most memorable moments in sailing history, and avid sailors continue to flock to the bay every summer for fun and competition.

We're fortunate to have a number of Safe Harbor locations in Narragansett Bay, and [we] are proud to be the home port of so many great vessels and their crews. Safe Harbor Newport Shipyard, Safe Harbor New England Boatworks, and Safe Harbor Jamestown Boatyard will be the official marina hosts.

We have been planning this regatta for almost a year, with the goal of creating a premium sailing event in Rhode Island to welcome Safe Harbor Members and guests from across our network to come race or simply enjoy the social events.

We considered all factors when choosing the date, trying very hard not to conflict with other regattas and sailing events that were already on the calendar, while also taking advantage of an incredible time of year in New England.

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing for your inaugural regatta?

We are excited by the turnout of more than 50 boats, including 11 superyachts ranging in size from 75-feet to 198-feet LOA.

What kind of regatta culture are you, the other event organizers, and the event's sponsors hoping to create/foster? Or, in other words, what kinds of entries and crews are you hoping to attract?

We want to be inclusive and fun, but also a venue for serious racing. A good regatta should be professionally organized and managed, with competitive, safe racing across all classes, from superyachts to cruisers and smaller vessels.

We look forward to welcoming all types of boats and sailors who share a love of the water. We're also focused on the social aspect of the regatta. We have amazing facilities in Narragansett Bay and we want to welcome all of our members, guests, and regatta participants to enjoy the atmosphere and have some fun.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter off of Newport in mid-August?

August is a beautiful time in Newport and on Narragansett Bay. We can't guarantee the weather, but August typically tends to be dry with a reliable sea breeze coming up in the afternoon.

Our afternoon race start times are designed specifically to take advantage of the afternoon sea breeze, so we are looking forward to some great sailing conditions!

What style of racing will the Safe Harbor Race Weekend employ? Windward-Leewards? Round the buoys? Harbor-tour (around the islands)? Mini-distance races? Also, how many races are you hoping to score, weather-depending, each day? What about over the course of the regatta?

We plan to have a little bit of everything.

On Friday, our hope is to have an around-the-Island race (around Conanicut Island) for the smaller boats, followed by windward-leewards on Saturday and Sunday.

Our plan for our Performance Cruisers is a mid-distance navigator's course on Saturday and Sunday.

Superyachts will sail a longer course in Rhode Island Sound on Friday and Saturday.

It should be great fun for the competitors and great viewing for everyone else!

Can you tell us about any particularly interesting entries? Also, are there any boats that you're eyeing for trophies or particularly strong finishes?

We are excited to have a great mix of yachts racing. The smaller boats always seem to have fun, and mixing up the racing format keeps it exciting for everyone.

The superyachts and ocean racers are always crowd-pleasers, and a number of these impressive vessels are signed up, including the J-Class Hanuman, the W-Class yacht Wild Horses, and two Perini-Navis, Zenji and Perseus^3. The participation of these types of boats and their elite crews always raises the bar!

We have no idea who will win each class, but whoever does win the overall trophy will get a custom Beau Lake Stand Up Paddleboard!

If you could offer one (or two) pieces of advice to first-time regatta entrants, what would it be?

Fun and safety will be the name of the game for Safe Harbor Race Weekend, and we hope that all of the entrants will take both seriously.

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the regatta's environmental footprint or otherwise green-up the regatta?

Yes, we are committed to being a Clean Regatta by limiting the number of paper products that are printed and distributed. We will be using reusable plates, glasses, flatware, etc. for our social events and we will compost any leftover food.

We are also committed to limiting single-use plastics and are proud to partner with JUST Water to provide our members and guests with high-quality boxed water.

We will also be using Mark Set Bots to help reduce the number of mark boats on the water.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

We can't wait for the weekend. Our team is excited about this and many of us will be participating in one way or another.

We are thrilled to host the inaugural Safe Harbor Race Weekend regatta, and [we] look forward to a fun, competitive, and memorable event for all involved.

For more information, please visit: shmarinas.com/safe-harbor-race-weekend

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