Our History

Newport Yacht Club was organized in April, 1894, and chartered in May of that year. At the first meeting, with nine men present, the objective of the club was stated: "This Club shall be known as the Newport Yacht Club and shall have for its objective the encouragement of yachting in and around Newport. "

Paul Bestoso photo of Newport Yacht ClubThe first regatta organized by the new club was held July 4, 1894, under the Herreshoff Rule. From this beginning, club membership grew rapidly and Newport Yacht Club became increasingly active in yachting in the Newport area and in Narragansett Bay, joining the (then) Narragansett Bay Yacht Racing Association in 1907.

The club sponsored its own one-design races and joined with other clubs in Narragansett Bay in annual regattas. A particularly successful regatta in July of 1937, an America's Cup year, saw 86 boats participating.

A popular one-design class was the Newport Dory, a modification of the Hurricane class. The club had eleven of these sailing dories built in 1932 in Amesbury, Massachusetts. Eventually, there were seventeen of these 16-foot boats in Newport Yacht Club races before World War II.

Newport Yacht Club was also especially active in Indian class racing from the early 1940s until the early 1960s. The Indian class knockabout, designed by John Alden, was a lap-strake centerboard dory 21 feet long with a beam of 6 feet, and which carried 235 square feet of sail. The club had a fleet of six Indians that competed successfully around Narragansett Bay.

Other popular one-design boats during this period were Blue Jays, a 14-foot version of the Lightning class, and the Turnabout, a 10-foot boat with a cat rig. The Turnabouts were first used in 1954 for Frostbite racing, and are still in use today by our Frostbite Fleet.

The Indian class eventually was displaced by the Ensign class, a 22foot Alberg-designed sloop built by Pearson Yachts. This class became the dominant one-design fleet at Newport Yacht Club. At its peak in 1980, the local fleet had 28 boats participating. Today we see the J-24 class sloops, designed by Rod Johnstone and built by Tillotson-Pearson, becoming popular, although Ensigns are still "holding their own."

Not to be overlooked in the club's history is the role played by Newport Yacht Club in predicted log racing by power boats. In 1969, club members originated the first annual Newport Predicted Long contest. In 1972, this evolved into the annual Cruiser Navigation Contest for the Chris-Craft Atlantic Coast Championship Trophy. In this contest, during some years, over twenty power boat skippers from New Jersey to Maine have enjoyed the hospitality of the club while testing their skills on Narragansett Bay.

Newport Yacht Club has always be hospitable to visiting yachtsmen from its very beginning. The club has established reciprocity with many yacht clubs through the years, and has worked closely with the City of Newport and the State of Rhode Island in conducting regattas. The club has provided facilities to our Navy friends when requested, especially during both World Wars.

Club members have been active in the US Power Squadron and the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, organizations which sponsor classes for boating safety. The Newport chapter of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary was formed at Newport Yacht Club on February 6, 1942. The club has conducted sailing classes, which are open to the public, since 1953 for both youngsters and adults. Several of these classes during the summer months have had over a total of one hundred students.

The Newport Yacht Club completed the celebration of its first one hundred years. As we begin our second century, we are grateful for the club's accomplishments, and are assured that all our members—past, present and future—are an important part of the rich and deep tradition of sailing and boating in Rhode Island waters.

—Jack White, Club Historian

Paul Bestoso Photo Note:

The photo shown above came from Paul Bestoso via email on March 2, 2003 with the following comments.

"I found this small photo (2"x3") in a box at my father's house. I'm not sure but I think its the Club before it was moved. Just above the building on the right hand side of the photo at the tree line there is a triangular roof top, which I think might be Hazard Memorial School. The school was located behind the Strand Theater and was built in 1889 or 1898 I'm not sure. I though the photo would look good at the top of your Club's History Page."

Paul's Father, Dr. Robert L. Bestoso passed away in 2002. Dr. Bestoso had been an avid sailor, beloved Newport family physician, and Former Commodore of Newport Yacht Club (1976-1977). Many thanks to Paul for this photo.