Historic Champs

Serious, tight racing at the 12 Metre World Championships.

07 August 2023


After participating in a morning parade around Newport Harbor that was punctuated by cannon salutes from yacht clubs and other prime waterfront viewing spots, 10 historic 12 Metres moved on to Rhode Island Sound for Saturday’s final race of the 12 Metre World Championship.

To be named the World Champions at the end of the day, Jack LeFort’s (Winter Park, Fla./Jamestown, R.I.) Challenge XII (KA-10) had merely to finish better than fifth among Modern Division’s five entries if Takashi Okura’s Japanese entry Freedom (US-30), close behind in the standings, were to win.

The day prior, Kevin Hegarty/Anthony Chiurco’s (Newport, R.I./Princeton, N.J.) Columbia (US-16) already had mathematically sewn up the nine-race series in the five-boat Traditional/Vintage Division.


After waiting for two hours, a windward/leeward course was set (later shortened) for a seven-knot breeze, and Challenge XII handily sailed to victory while Freedom finished fifth to maintain its Modern Division podium position of second place. Columbia finished third, while the fleet’s oldest boat, Mark Watson’s (Newport, R.I.) Onawa (US-6), built in 1928, sailed its way to a clean victory and a claim on second place overall for the Traditional/Vintage Division.

Both the Challenge XII and Columbia teams, homegrown with mostly local crews, won the Worlds in 2019 when it last was held in Newport.

“Conditions were light, heavy, medium…we went up the (Narragansett) Bay, out on the ocean – it was just a great across-the-board test for the fleet,” said LeFort, whose veteran team includes his wife Lisa as navigator and America’s Cup/Volvo Ocean Race veteran Ken Read as tactician.

“The good news is that Sunday’s conditions – light air and lumpy seas – were good for us.”

Racing started Tuesday (August 1) with one race in light 8 to 9 knot breezes that gave Challenge XII (in Modern Division) and Robert Morton’s (Middletown, R.I.) American Eagle (US-21) (in Traditional/Vintage Division) an early boost for winning. Both teams, however, fell to second behind Freedom and Onawa, respectively, after two races on Wednesday, held again in light 5-8 knot air. For Thursday and Friday, 18 to 20 knot winds proved also to be good for Challenge XII, as the team won three of five races held in Modern Division while Columbia won all five held in Traditional/Vintage Division.

“It’s not about being the fastest boat,” said Columbia’s Hegarty, who helmed at the starts and then became tactician while Chiurco drove.

“Whomever performs the best, or messes up the least, is going to win. That’s why I love sailing 12 Meters; everything is manual, and it takes muscle and teamwork. There is no other class like it.”

Hegerty said it hit him in the middle of the night on Friday that he and his team – which like Challenge XII’s has been sailing together for over a decade – were now two-time 12 Metre World champions. “I woke up and just had a big smile on my face.”

The smiles (and cheers) spilled over into Saturday night’s Awards Party, held at the IYRS School of Technology and Trades, which served as headquarters for the six-day event. Kudos especially were given to PRO Mark Foster and his Ida Lewis Yacht Club Race Committee team for their extraordinary acumen and patience.

“Conditions were all over the place and the Race Committee adjusted to them and so did the teams,” said Ida Lewis representative Guy Sanchez.

Other Modern Division teams competing were Peter Askew’s (Key Largo, Fla.) Enterprise (US-27), Andrew Rose’s (Newport Beach, Calif.) Defender (US-33), and Dawn Riley’s Oakcliff trainees (Oyster Bay, N.Y.) sailing Courageous (US-26).

Other Traditional/Vintage Division teams competing were Jack Klinck’s (Concord, Mass.) Nefertiti (US-19) and Steve Eddleston’s (Bristol, R.I.) Weatherly (US-17).

The Ted Turner Trophy for most significant contribution to the 12 Metre Class went to Steve Eddleston, Commodore of the 12 Metre Yacht Club Newport Station, who subsequently presented the Tiedemann Trophy for best Vintage yacht to Onawa.

The Worlds fleet included four boats that successfully defended the America’s Cup when it was sailed in Newport in 12 Metres from 1958 to 1983: Columbia – 1958, Weatherly -1962, Courageous – 1974/1977 and Freedom – 1980.

The 2023 12 Metre World Championship was sanctioned by the International Twelve Metre Association (ITMA) and hosted by the 12 Metre Yacht Club Newport Station in partnership with Organizing Authority Ida Lewis Yacht Club.

Making the 12 Metre Worlds possible are sponsors Audrain Hospitality; Clarke Cooke House ; Edge Realty; Flux Marine; Gill Marine; Hammetts Hotel; Jefferson’s Bourbon; Lemon & Line; North Sails; Pallas Capital Advisors; Palm Beach Motor Yachts; PKF O’Connor Davies; Seabags; and Starkweather & Shepley Insurance.



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