Third Beach and the Sakonnet River are practically my home sailing grounds these days. If I were to sail south a few miles from the bay in front of my window as I type, I would be off Third Beach. Visitors from less favored locations such as Long Island Sound were green with envy. The waves. The relatively reliable winds. The ease of launching and quick access to the race area. What could be better?
Third Beach is also the location of the US Olympic Trials for the Laser and Laser Radial classes next month. Some of the Olympic hopefuls are already training there, including Andrew Campbell who posted on his blog on Monday Postcards from Newport: Life on Third Beach.
Andrew noted the positive aspects of the site...
The sailing area is close to the beach. Ten minutes after pushing off the beach and you are in the racing area. The southwesterlies and southerly seabreezes produce three to five foot waves and plenty of breeze. The cold northerlies that will be here as autumn sets in will also give us wind with less exposure to the Atlantic Ocean, but good sailing conditions.
but also mentioned some other issues (such as no running water to hose boats off after sailing) and how he and his training partners are dealing with them.
This ain't no swanky yacht club, or even a purpose-built dinghy sailing center. It's just a parking lot and a launch ramp at a public beach.
And then in today's Scuttlebutt newsletter, a dude called Ted Beir wrote a note to the editor after reading Andrew's blog and being shocked, shocked, shocked...
After reading Andrew Campbell's description of the Laser Olympic Trials venue in Newport, I was appalled. Is this all the better we can do for our Olympic sailors? Surely with the fine yacht clubs and sailing schools there, US Sailing can find a venue for training and trials with better facilities than an abandoned tourist parking lot and beach. Shame, shame! I bet the Brits have better for their preparation events.
So who's right? I guess it all depends on your point of view. Personally I don't need all the accouterments of "fine yacht clubs" to rate a sailing venue as world-class. The five key factors for me are...
Wind. Third Beach is at the southern end of Rhode Island where the Sakonnet River opens to Rhode Island Sound so if there is a sea breeze you will get it here first.
Waves. The beauty of Third Beach is that the racing area has waves and, depending on the wind direction and strength and how far you want to sail south, you can choose how lumpy you want your water to be. But you will find more bumps here than almost anywhere on the sheltered bays in Rhode Island, or almost any of the other dinghy sailing venues on the east cost of the US for that matter.
Easy access to the sailing area. With all due respect to such venues as the Hyannis Yacht Club and Sail Newport, the regattas I did there this year involved as much as an hour's sailing to reach the race area. Not so much time for real fun.
Parking for the car near to the boat and a short distance from there to the launch. Don't even get me started again about New Bedford.
Ease of launching. A short ramp, a wide beach and a sheltered bay. What more could you ask for? Colt State Park in Bristol is pretty good but the ramps there are almost unusable in a strong westerly.
All the rest is fluff. Maybe Lasers sailors are weird. Or maybe I'm weird. But yacht club lounges, showers, restaurants, bars, trophy cases... I can do without. However, a freshwater hose would be nice.
What about you? What should there be at your ideal sailing location?