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Yachts in Newport Harbor

Sailing cruise on an America's Cup yacht

In the heart of Rhode Island, you’ll find the yacht-filled waterfront of Newport. Having hosted the annual sail regatta — the America’s Cup — for over 50 years, the city modestly refers to itself as the ‘sailing capital of the world’. One of the best ways to experience Newport’s nautical roots is by feeling the salty sea breeze and refreshing spray onboard a former America’s Cup racing yacht.

Regardless of your nautical know-how, you’re invited to assist with all the onboard activities, from hoisting the sails to sailing the yacht itself. Or, you can sit back and be navigated past swathes of golden beaches and craggy shoreline. From the deck you’ll have a front-row seat when it comes to viewing Newport’s highlights. Look beyond the salty sea dogs sat on the docks and you’ll spy Colonial and Gilded Age architecture, America’s largest coastal fortification and lighthouses guarding the coastline.

Newport Harbor is a hive of activity, with yachts and sailing boats of all sizes swanning in and out like clockwork. The seaport shelters the largest fleet of America’s Cup 12 m (65 ft) charters in the world, with many of them offering you the chance to get a taste of life aboard a cup contender. You can either opt for an afternoon session or watch the water flicker between amber and rose during a sunset sail.

You’ll spend two hours on board one of two 12 m (65 ft) racing yachts: either the 1958 cup champion, US16 Columbia, or US23 Heritage — the last wooden America's Cup vessel ever constructed. With over 30 years of experience navigating New England waters, your captain will happily show you the ropes and point out local landmarks. There’ll also be plenty of opportunities to help the crew out with sailing or stowing the sails.

Everything about these yachts has been designed specifically to sail, and win, races off Newport’s coast. Although originally these racing yachts were stripped of features such as toilets, these have now been reinstated — so you don’t need to fear for your comfort.

During your trip, you can sit on deck and learn about the history of the America’s Cup from the crew. From the water around Aquidneck Island, formerly known as Rhode Island, your crew will point out Fort Adams, America’s largest coastal fort which stands at the entrance of Newport Harbor.

At the top of the fort with sweeping views over the Atlantic sits Hammersmith Farm, a Victorian-era mansion used as the ‘summer White House’ during John F. Kennedy’s presidency. Your captain will tell you all about Newport’s mansions which popped up during the Gilded Age when wealthy Americans would use the area as their summer playground, residing in houses worthy of Jay Gatsby.

You’ll also sail past Rose Island Lighthouse, which was restored and finally reilluminated by the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation in 1992 after being abandoned for over 14 years. Beyond Rose Island, you’ll struggle to miss Newport’s 488 m (1,601 ft) long suspension bridge.

Although food and drinks are not served during your sail, you’re invited to bring your own aboard. Additionally, the yacht has plenty of waterproof clothing which you can use should you experience rain or cold weather.

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who's been there
Audley Travel specialist Shannon

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