A Visit to the Sailing Museum in Newport, R.I.

plaque of herbert l stone

By Katherine Stone

Canadian Yachting’s sail reviewer has a family connection

A plaque commemorating Herbert L. Stone’s years as head of Yachting magazine and The America’s Cup Races book he wrote.

An added bonus to our trip to the Newport Boat Show this September, was a visit to The Sailing Museum on Thames Street which just opened on May 10, 2022. I was lucky enough to have a personal guided tour of the museum from Heather Ruhsam, Executive Director, because my great grandfather, Herbert L. Stone, was inducted into the Sailing Hall of Fame in 2019. This certainly was my inspiration to become a lifelong racing sailor!

Starting in 1907, Stone was editor and publisher of Yachting magazine from 1908 until his death in 1955. He also wrote numerous books including: The Yachtsman’s Handbook on the Practical Equipping, Care and Handling of Boats, Ice-boating: the latest opinions of the foremost authorities in America, ABCs of Boat Sailing, Millions for Defense, and the  America’s Cup Races. Herbert was a founding member of the Cruising Club of America in 1922 and a year later was elected the second commodore, beginning service to the club that lasted until his death. Despite great resistance, Stone was entirely responsible for the 1923 revival of the Newport Bermuda Race (started in 1906 but eventually waned) with 22 yachts, now the oldest regularly scheduled ocean race with over 200 entries.

Katherine with display of great grandfather 400The idea for the museum came about after the founding of the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2004. Many at that time wanted a permanent spot where the heritage of the sport and the individuals who helped to shape and promote sailing could be honoured. By 2019 that idea became reality when the historic Armory Building in Newport, Rhode Island was purchased. It was no coincidence that this 11,000-square-foot building housed the Press Headquarters for the America’s Cup in 1958 and 1983. Not only has this become a place for people of all ages and backgrounds to learn about sailing, but it also houses the National Sailing Hall of Fame and the America’s Cup Hall of Fame.

Katherine Stone with display of her great grandfather Herbert L. Stone who was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2019.

Unique to this hands-on museum is also the fact that it can become your own personalized journey. When you enter the exhibit area you are immediately greeted by a large screen that displays images of boats, people, and places from across the USA where boats are sailing accompanied by an inspiring musical track. I was so inspired that I watched it from start to finish several times!

You start your journey by selecting from seven types of boats by putting your wristband up to the scanner at each exhibit. You can even name your boat. Your avatar now guides you to several interactive elements which are specific to your type of boat. There are six thematic areas that test your skills and load into your “locker” where you can keep track of your knowledge and achievements.

View from upstairs balcony 400After choosing your boat you move to the first theme area of the Wind and Water, where you will learn about the points of sail, wind, currents, tides, ocean stewardship, and the anatomy and design of a boat.

Fabulous view from the upstairs balcony of the boats suspended from the ceiling!

The second theme is The Making of a Sailor: Mental which includes tactics, leadership, navigation and decision-making where you can actually take on the role of tactician!

Then we move to the third thematic station which is the heart of the museum – the Legends of Sailing. Here they honour over 175 individuals who were designers, builders, coaches, Olympians, historians, explorers, mentors, and sailmakers. These individuals combine the inductees of both the National Sailing Hall of Fame and the America’s Cup Hall of Fame.

Moving to the Fourth exhibit we are immersed in The Making of a Sailor: Physical. Sailors must possess not only strength and endurance, but also agility, prowess, and speed. Surprisingly you will find some Canadian content, including pictures of our Canadian paralympic sailors in the 2.4 keelboat. You can watch the pros fly over the water in a high-speed cat or take the grinding challenge.

models 275To bring this all together, we visit the fifth thematic section on Teamwork. It doesn’t matter if you are racing or cruising, this skill is essential to get the boat through the water in the most efficient way. This area also features collegiate sailors, and you can team up with your friends to race to the finish.

Important models found in the Mosbacher Room.

Finally, we end up at the sixth section aptly called Competition. This is where you can witness sailors at the highest level of sailing with a great look at the history of the America’s Cup. You will also find a plethora of resources to begin your very own sailing journey.

Moving to the second floor, the founding yacht clubs and donors are displayed on the stairwell walls. The Mosbacher Room is a lounge, trophy display case and conference area for members. Select volumes from the Tom Morris Library Collection can also be found here on the history and DNA of the National Sailing Hall of Fame. The rest of the collection can be found just down the street with the Museum’s partner, the IYRS School of Technology & Trades. There is also a large display featuring the boat Dorade*. The balcony overlooks the entire lower floor. From this viewpoint, you are able to view life-size boats hanging from the ceiling and displayed throughout the museum from 29ers to Optimist prams and the iconic first J/24.

Educators are supported through the museum’s hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Science concepts) which provides real-world applications and learning experiences for all ages. Coming soon will be seminars and in-school learning opportunities. Best of all, admission is very reasonable at $18/adult, $15/senior, $12/youth and children under 10 free.

Put best in their own words, “As sailors, we believe that sailing teaches critical life skills like teamwork, leadership, self-reliance and responsibility. We believe what you see on the water will change the way you see life on land. We believe everyone should have access to that experience. The Sailing Museum will bring incredible people and inspiring stories from across sailing into ONE place that is accessible to all.”

Dorade display 400* Dorade is a yacht designed in 1929 by Olin Stephens of Sparkman & Stephens and built 1929–1930 by the Minneford Yacht Yard in City Island, NY. Dorade raced on the east coast from 1930 through 1935, moving to San Francisco for several years, then on to Seattle in the late 1930s. She returned to the bay area from 1979 to 1984. Dorade’s home berth is now Newport, RI.

Dorade was completely restored in 1997 at the shipyard of Argentario in Porto Santo Stefano, Italy.

In 2013, Dorade took first place overall in the Trans-Pacific race, which she first won in 1936.

The yawl is also notable for the introduction of the Dorade box, a ventilator arrangement which became a standard fitting on small sailing craft.

Upstairs exhibit featuring the Dorade.

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