If you’re out and about on Newport Harbor on Sunday afternoon, July 16, you may see dozens of sailboats racing around the harbor. Give them plenty of room and cheer them on—it’s the 87th Annual Flight of Newport Beach, presented by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce with assistance from the Balboa Yacht Club.
The race dates back to 1936 when it was known as the Flight of the Snowbirds—a small wooden sailboat that was once the most popular boat in the harbor (and was used in the Olympic Games). Some 200 boats regularly entered the race in the 1950s.
In the early 1970s the race briefly became Flight of the Kites, a sailing dinghy slightly longer than a Snowbird.
In 1979 the race was renamed Flight of the Lasers, a more modern and very popular fiberglass boat.
The race was renamed again in 2020 to The Flight of Newport and welcomed ILCA (formerly known as Lasers), Harbor 20 and Terra RS boats.
The Flight of Newport has three separate races depending on class, and three start times on July 16. The RS Terra boats set sail from the Balboa Pavilion at 12:45 p.m., the ILCA 7 and 6 (Laser Full and Radial) at 1 p.m., and Harbor 20 boats at 1:15 p.m.
The boats will take about 90 minutes to complete the course, which circumvents the entire bay.
According to information from race officials, the first-place winner in the ILCA fleet will receive the Albert Soiland Trophy, named after the first Commodore of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club along with a new sail provided by West Coast Sailing.
Other placing racers first to cross the finish line in these categories will also receive prizes: ILCA fleet, the First Girl, Youngest Boy, Youngest Girl, Oldest Person and First Married Couple.
The Albert Soiland Trophy is engraved with the names of past winners; the trophy has frequently been awarded to sailors who have gone on to participate in bigger races, including the America’s Cup.
“It’s great to see the huge spread in age of the skippers in this race, from young kids to legends of the bay like Seymour Beek and Dave Tingler. The Flight of Newport has been the starting point for many young kids,” said Brett Hemphill, a Commodore and Co-Chair of the Flight of Newport.
There is no charge to enter the race. Each registered participant will receive a Flight of Newport T-shirt and must provide their own boat.
For more information including sailing instructions and to register for the race, visit https://flightofnewportbeach.com.