12 Metre Worlds Will Harken Back to America’s Cup Days in Newport

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12 Metre Worlds Will Harken Back to America’s Cup Days in Newport

NEWPORT, RI (March 20, 2019) – When the 12 Metre World Championship comes to Newport, R.I. this summer (July 8-13), the significance of the venue will not be lost on sailing buffs, or for that matter, on sports historians in general.

The America’s Cup, one of the most famous competitions between countries, was held here in Newport 12 times from 1930 to 1983, and for nine of those times, from 1958 to 1983, the sailboat used to determine the winners was the 12 Metre, a single-masted sloop of approximately 68 feet (21 metres) in length.

Scenes from the docks at the end of the 1983 America’s Cup (Photos by Gilles Martin-Raget)
Scenes from the docks at the end of the 1983 America’s Cup (Photos by Gilles Martin-Raget)

During the 12 Metre Cup years, thousands of sailors, support teams, families and spectators from around the world swarmed lower Thames Street and wharves such as Bannister’s where the 12 Metres and their teams headquartered during races that determined a final defender and challenger destined to spar one-on-one for the coveted silver ewer that was “The Cup”. The most memorable Cup in Newport was unfortunately its last; 1983 marked the first winning challenge to the New York Yacht Club, which had successfully defended the Cup over a period of 132 years.  An Australian syndicate representing the Royal Perth Yacht Club wrested the precious trophy from its decades-old resting place, breaking a winning streak that was the longest on record in any sport.

For July’s 12 Metre Worlds, teams from around the world again will flock to Newport. They will sail a series of fleet races, held over five racing days, to determine winners in four Divisions: Grand Prix, Modern, Traditional, and Vintage. And they will sail somewhat the same America’s Cup courses plotted beyond the mouth of Narragansett Bay and off Brenton Reef in the Atlantic Ocean – that long ago brought notoriety to scenic Newport and its surrounding waters.

A Look Back from the Sailors

With the Cup’s historical ties to Newport, it’s no surprise that many of the sailors planning to compete at the Worlds are veterans of 12 Metre America’s Cup campaigns.

Lexi Gahagan (Wilmington, Del.) started his America’s Cup career in 1980 when he successfully defended the Cup as bow man on Dennis Conner’s Freedom (US-30). At the 12 Metre Worlds he will sail in the Afterguard of New Zealand (KZ-3), entered in the four-boat Grand Prix Division and owned and driven by Gunther Buerman (Highland Beach, Fla./Newport, R.I.).

Lexi Gahagan and the current team of New Zealand (KZ-3); Brad Read (far left), Lexi Gahagan (third from left), and Gunther Buerman (fourth from left)
Lexi Gahagan and the current team of New Zealand (KZ-3); Brad Read (far left), Lexi Gahagan (third from left), and Gunther Buerman (fourth from left)

“In 1980, it was like we were all on college football teams,” said Gahagan, who would go on to sail for Cup campaigns in 1987, 1992 and 2000. “No one got paid, but we were working hard while also having a really good time. By ’87 it had ramped up; it was more like going to work as professional athletes; people were hired and fired for their performances.”

Gahagan said no one on KZ-3 is paid, although all are veteran sailors, including locals Duncan Skinner and Chris Fischer, who have America’s Cup credentials as well. “The team has sailed together now for five years and feels good about knowing the boat,” he said, adding that local knowledge, which Afterguard member Brad Read and other area sailors contribute, also is a plus. “We haven’t had many other Grand Prix 12 Metres to sail against, and it’s time to mix it up with some of the good competition coming in.”

Grand Prix teams coming to America to compete at the Worlds are Patrizio Bertelli’s Italian entrant Kookaburra II (KA-12), Jesper Bank’s Danish entrant Legacy (KZ-5), and Johan Blach Petersen’s Danish entry Kiwi Magic (KZ-7).

“The others won’t know the boats as well, perhaps, but they’ll pick it up in a hurry,” said Gahagan, referencing the fact that some of the teams have only recently formulated, specifically for competing at the 2019 Worlds and the Pre-Worlds, also to be held in Newport (July 6-7).

As for 1983, when the world watched as John Bertrand’s Australia II (KA-5) beat Dennis Conners’ Liberty (US-40) and afterward revealed its secret weapon winged-keel to thousands of race fans on the Newport waterfront, Gahagan said he was watching, too, from a TV in Vermont.

“I wasn’t there for that one, but I’ve been all over the world sailing, and having all the boats on Thames Street the way it was, how close we all were…it can’t be replicated,” said Gahagan. “Newport to me is a special place…it’s why I still sail with Gunther and his team; it’s where the Cup should be if America can win it back next time.”

Mike Toppa (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Newport, R.I.) will sail on the newly confirmed entry Enterprise (US-27), chartered from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) Sailing Foundation by Clay and Nancy Deutsch (Newport, R.I.) for the Modern Division competition. Toppa sailed on the same boat in 1980 when she served as a Trial Horse for Dennis Conners’ successful Freedom campaign.

Enterprise was discovered in France, in disrepair, a few years back, and brought back to racing form by two different owners before she was donated to the Foundation.
“Her interior was taken out by the second owner, who was getting it ready for the Worlds,” said Toppa, who also sailed on and designed sails for Defender (US-33) in 1983 and Eagle (US-60) in 1986. “A lot of design work has been done, and everything has been changed, including the deck hydraulics, the mast, the keel, the trim tab and sail plan.
The best things about the old Newport Cup days for Toppa was learning as much as he did, sailing with the best sailors at the time, and soaking it all up. “I mean, I was sailing for the America’s Cup in my hometown; it was the biggest sailing regatta in the world!

Clockwise from left: Challenge XII (KA-10) under sail, Freedom (US-30) at Pilots Point Marina in 2017; Intrepid (US-22) under sail. (Photos by Windlass Creative/SallyAnne Santos and courtesy of Freedom)
Clockwise from left: Challenge XII (KA-10) under sail, Freedom (US-30) at Pilots Point Marina in 2017; Intrepid (US-22) under sail. (Photos by Stephen R Cloutier and courtesy of Freedom)

The Modern Division is yielding the deepest fleet, with seven entries that include three successful Cup defenders: Freedom (US-30) (1980), skippered by owner Charles Robertson (Guilford, Conn.); Intrepid (US-22) (1967 & 1970), skippered by Jack Curtin (Toronto, Canada/New York, N.Y.); and Courageous (US-26) (1974 & 1977), skippered by Arthur Santry (Arlington, Va./Newport, R.I.), another America’s Cup 12 Metre veteran. As well, it includes Jack Lefort’s (Winter Park, Fla./Jamestown, R.I.) Challenge XII (KA-10), which two years ago was returned to racing trim specifically for the Worlds; 2009 12 Metre Worlds (Modern Division) Champion, Dennis Williams’ (Hobe Sound, Fla./Newport, R.I.) Victory ’83 (K-22); and Harry Graves’ (Grand Isle, Vt.) Lionheart (K-18).

The 12 Metre World Championship is hosted by Ida Lewis Yacht Club, the International Twelve Metre Association (ITMA) America’s Fleet and the 12 Metre Yacht Club.

The 2019 12 Metre World Championship is sponsored by Château d’Esclans -Whispering Angel, Grand Banks Yachts, Gurney’s Marina and Resort, MJM Yachts and North Sails. Official suppliers include Bacardi, Helly Hansen Newport, Sevenstar Yacht Transport and Stella Artois. Event venue partners are Clarke Cooke House, Ida Lewis Yacht Club, International Yacht Restoration School, Newport Shipyard and Sail Newport. For more information please visit: https://12mrworlds.com/partners/

A full list of competitors is here: https://12mrworlds.com/2019-competitors/

For more information visit https://12mrworlds.com/ or contact Peter Gerard at pgerard53@gmail.com.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. #12mRWorldChampionship, @12mRWorldChampionship



The International 12 Metre Class’ 2019 World Championship will be held in Newport, Rhode Island (USA) from July 8-13 and hosted by the Ida Lewis Yacht Club and the 12 Metre Yacht Club. It will be the largest-ever gathering of 12 Metre yachts in the United States with at least two dozen boats from seven countries expected. International teams comprised of elite sailors, including America’s Cup veterans and Olympic medalists, will represent such countries as Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway and the United States. The 2019 12 Metre World Championship fleet will span the years 1928 -1987, include seven America’s Cup defenders and challengers, and be sailed on Rhode Island Sound, the site of nine America’s Cup competitions from 1958-1983. www.12mrworlds.com


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, Ben Lexcen and more who pushed their designs to the very limits of innovation. The resulting boats represented the pinnacle of yacht development from 1907-1987 for the highest levels of international sailing competition– the Olympic Games (1908-1920) and the America’s Cup (1958-1987). www.12mrclass.com

Event Chairman
Peter Gerard
+1 214-244-4955

Manuka Sports
+44 7398-183-957

Media Pro Int’l
Barby MacGowan
+1 401-849-0220

International 12 Metre Class
SallyAnne Santos
+1 401-847-0112

Team Photo Gallery

These photos have been provided by Competitors along with completed 2019 12 Metre World Championship Competitor Questionnaire. Don’t see your team here? Please download and complete the Questionnaire and send along with your team photo for inclusion here and in the official 2019 World Championship programme to be published in the July issue of QUEST magazine. Contact SallyAnne with any questions or for assistance. Thank you!

Click any image to view full-size.

Organizing Committee Update: March 2019

Peter GerardA very impressive competitors list is taking shape and details are being confirmed for the 12mR World Championship to be held in Newport from July 8 – 13, 2019– now just under 5 months from today!

By way of this update, we’d like to point out links where the latest event information is (and will continue to be) found as well as to remind you of a number of important items requiring your attention:

Notice of Race Update, 3/4/19

NoR Amendment #1, 3/4/19

Event Registration

Sign-up prior to price increases:

Before April 15: $8600 USD

April 16 – May 31: $9100 USD

After June 1: $9600 USD

12 Metre Requirements

In order to qualify for the World Championship every yacht must be in compliance with the International Twelve Metre Class Rules:

Click the links to renew Memberships and check Certificate status.

Technical Committee

ITMA’s Technical Committee is comprised of Ken McAlpine (Chair), Dyer Jones and Ken Kershaw.

NOTE: Both Ken McAlpine and Dyer Jones will recuse themselves from any measurement issue that has to be determined by the Technical Committee for the Divisions where they have the appearance of a COI because of their relationships with competitors.  For Ken, this would be Vintage (Nyala) and Grand Prix (Kookaburra II), for Dyer this would be Modern (Freedom).


The Regatta Technical Committee will be available in the Newport area starting on July 1. During the Measurement Period, from July 1-7, all competing yachts must have their flotation and rig dimensions checked. Sail Inventories will be checked for evidence of previous measurement. Some new sail measurement will be possible as time allows during the Measurement Period, but we strongly recommend that you take care of this as early as possible.

  • You should contact your local fleet measurer to schedule your sail measurement
  • Note: Flotation Checks may be done at any time and at any regatta


Per NOR, 3/4/19:
7.1 Yachts will be divided in to the following classes:

Division A: Grand Prix
Division B: Modern
Division C: Traditional
Division D: Vintage (may be combined with Division C for starting purposes)
Division E: Antique (may be combined with Divisions C and D for starting purposes)
12 Metre Spirit (see 7.2 below)

7.2 In order to enable boats built as 12 Metre yachts and their teams that are not currently in compliance with the Class Rules to participate in the World Championship Celebration; at its sole discretion, the Organizing Authority may form an additional starting and scoring group for yachts for which some of the 12 Metre Class Rules are waived.
A. These yachts will not compete within the World Championship.
B. These yachts, while they must have been originally built as a 12 Metre yacht, need not have a current 12 Metre certificate.
C. These yachts must be current members of ITMA, and comply with all the other entry requirements listed in this Notice of Race.
D. These yachts will sail as the 12 Metre Spirit Division, be given their own start and courses, and trophies will be awarded.

Pre-Worlds Schedule & Waypoints Scoring

June 14 – 16, New York Yacht Club 165th Annual Regatta

June 29 – 30, Newport Trophy Regatta hosted by Ida Lewis Yacht Club

July 6 – 7, Pre-Worlds at Sail Newport Regatta

July 8-13, 12mR World Championship will now also be scored as a Waypoints event

Worlds Schedule

Monday, July 8

1200 – 1730: Registration at Ida Lewis Yacht Club
1700: Support Boat Drivers’ Meeting at Ida Lewis YC
1730: Owners’ /Skippers’ Meeting at Ida Lewis YC
1830: Owners’ / Skippers’ Reception at Ida Lewis YC
Ida Lewis Yacht Club, 170 Wellington Ave.

Tuesday, July 9

0900: Rendezvous signal announced on VHF Ch72
1055: Course Signals
1100: First Warning Signal
1830: Welcome Reception at Gurney’s Resort & Marina
Gurney’s Resort & Marina, Goat Island

Wednesday, July 10

0900: Rendezvous signal announced on VHF Ch72
1055: Course Signals
1100: First Warning Signal
1630: Post-Racing Social, adjacent to 12mR docks
at Sail Newport, 72 Fort Adams Dr.

Thursday, July 11

0900: Rendezvous signal announced on VHF Ch72
1055: Course Signals
1100: First Warning Signal
1500: Post-Racing Social, adjacent to 12mR docks
at Sail Newport, 72 Fort Adams Dr.
1830: 12 MYC Dinner-Dance at Marble House
Marble House, 596 Bellevue Ave.

Friday, July 12

0900: Rendezvous signal announced on VHF Ch72
1055: Course Signals
1100: First Warning Signal
1630: Post-Racing Social, adjacent to 12mR docks
at Sail Newport, 72 Fort Adams Dr.

Saturday, July 13

0900: Rendezvous signal announced on VHF Ch72
1000: Salute to 12 Metres Parade of Sail
1155: Course Signals*
1200: First Warning Signal*
1700: Awards Ceremony at Restoration Hall, IYRS
International Yacht Restoration School, 449 Thames Street

Sunday, July 14

1500: ITMA Annual General Meeting at 12 Metre Yacht Club
Clarke Cooke House, 3rd floor, 26 Bannister’s Wharf
Owners and ITMA Members ONLY.

*Note difference in time for Course Signals and First Warning on Saturday.

Per Notice of Race: A total of NINE (9) races for each Division are scheduled. FOUR (4) completed races shall constitute a series for each Division. No initial warning signal will be made after 1500 on Saturday, July 13. The warning signal for a start following one or more general recalls or for subsequent starts may be made after 1500.


Immediately following the 12mR World Championship, the New York Yacht Club is hosting their 175th Anniversary Regatta and 12mR Jubilee, July 15-20. All 12mR yachts have been invited to participate. For additional details and registration, please refer to the New York Yacht Club’s website.

Newport Logistics


Dockage is included with your Worlds registration, however you must confirm your reservation with SailNewport, the operator of the Fort Adams marina. If you wish to extend your stay at on the dock beyond 7/14, through the NYYC’s 175th Anniversary Regatta (7/15-7/20) you must book directly with Sail Newport.


A number of Innkeepers have reached out to us with interest to host our regatta participants, additional information has been added to the housing page of this site.

Best regards and see you in Newport!

Peter Gerard
2019 12mR Worlds Event Chair ITMA VP America’s Fleet.
+1 214 244 4955