Here comes the 2011 Great Brigantine Race

Two identical tall ships, manned by deckhands from rival Newport sailing clubs, will race one another on Sept. 18.

September 15, 2011|By Imran Vittachi

NEWPORT BEACH — From their perch on a buoy bobbing by the entrance to Newport Harbor, a party of California sea lions welcomed the Irving Johnson with a cacophony of honks.

On Monday's voyage up the Orange Coast from Dana Point, the crew of the tall ship had unfurled its sails, which gleamed in the late morning sunlight. The brigantine's deckhands could be seen changing tack on the jib sails out front to catch a wind blowing in from Catalina. They were preparing the 100-foot, 100-ton boat for its approach into the harbor.

"That is so cool," exclaimed Paul DeCapua, Race Committee chairman for the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club.

DeCapua was among those watching the goings-on aboard the Irving Johnson from behind the wheel of the BCYC's 34-foot Baja Cat, which idled nearby.


On Saturday, the Irving Johnson will go on public display with other boats taking part in Newport Beach's third annual Wooden Boat Festival, put on by American Legion Post 291. Then, on Sunday, the wooden ship will join its twin sister in a race against the Exy Johnson in the waters off Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.

Billed as the Great Brigantine Race, the 1 p.m. contest will pit teams of sailors drawn from the ranks of the Bahia Corinthian and Balboa Yacht clubs against one another. They will race under the supervision and guidance of the ships' full-time captains and crews. Bahia Corinthian members will work the sails of the Irving Johnson, while their counterparts from the BYC will do the same aboard the Exy Johnson.

The triangular course will start and end at the Balboa Pier, and the racing ships — winds and weather permitting — are to make a final turn off the Huntington Beach Pier before the homeward dash, organizers said.

"The challenge will be for people who have never raced on these boats before to make them go," said DeCapua, a Newport Coast resident.

Afterward, the Irving Johnson will stay behind in Newport Beach to take part in the Lido Yacht Expo, happening from Sept. 22 to 25 at the Lido Marina Village docks, where the ship is moored.

"This is a very splendid thing that's going on," said Mark Kovaletz, co-chairman of the Wooden Boat Festival, praising the charitable spirit shown by the competing Newport sailing clubs during hard economic times.

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