On the Harbor: NHYC’s Opening Day and a bit about flag etiquette


This Saturday (May 4), is the Newport Harbor Yacht Club’s Opening Day race followed by the club’s Opening Day on Sunday (May 5). On May 15, the Newport Harbor Foundation is throwing the First Annual State of the Bay Luncheon at Newport Harbor Yacht Club. Guest speakers will be Seymour Beek updating you on the ferry status, Harbormaster Paul Blank updating you with his report, Bill Kenney will be reviewing mooring fields-reconfiguration and rates, and Duffy Duffield will be updating you on the water wheel and dredging projects. All are very important and interesting topics. For more information or to RSVP, contact Julie Ackman at julie@julieackman.com.

Newport Harbor Yacht Club’s Opening Day Race is one of the best attended races of the year, with boats in the 23- to 76-foot range. The race starts up in Long Beach Harbor out the Long Beach entrance, then finishes at the Newport Pier. This race is a pursuit race where the little boats start to their handicaps rating to the fastest boats. So, if the fastest boat owes two hours of handicap time to the slowest boat, that’s when the slower boats start. It does make for some fun sailing with the day being more about a sail down the coast than racing.

Many of my favorite boats have entered this year Venture, Craig Atkins’ 76’ Pedrick; Teal, Jim Warmington’s 42’ Hinkley and Rocket, the Fuller Family Santa Cruz 50. The usual favorites to win are Doubletime, Molly and Alan Andrews’ Andrews 38 or Lone Ranger, Kayla La Dow’s Ranger 33. As always, the weather will be playing a big part in this race. The forecast is for a light breeze out of the south in the late morning then a rather strong westerly breeze will be filling in, so I am going to place my money on a big boat and go with the David Team aboard Peligroso, the 68’ Kernan. It’s always a great day on the water and the perfect way to lead into a yacht club’s opening day. Newport Harbor Yacht Club Opening day is second to none in our harbor with the usual boat inspections, ceremonies, and celebration of the opening of the boating season.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Len Bose

Fanfare at a Balboa Yacht Club Opening Day

Seventeen years ago I wrote a story called “The True Yachtsman Guide To Flag Etiquette for Opening Day.” Some 7,000 people have read this story. If you are interested, you can find the story on my blog site at http://lenboseyachts.blogspot.com/. I am a big fan of having one’s own private signal – usually a tapered, swallowtail pennant, but sometimes a rectangle or triangle. The tradition of the private signal, or “house flag” currently used dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries, when the sailing ship lines were at their peak. Many line owners were yachtsmen and carried their “house flags” that have been passed down for generations. If a member doesn’t have a private signal, one is recommended that is both simple and timeless in design and easily recognized from a distance to ensure its continued use for future generations. Traditionally, initials were not used. The tradition for more than the past 100 years in yachting is that the club (association) burgee be displayed on the bow staff or the truck using a staff or “pig stick.” The reason for these locations is for maximum visibility under sail, as well as at anchor.

In recent years, yacht clubs have opted for the starboard spreader as an alternative location for the burgee to accommodate yachts whose trucks are encumbered with wind indicators and electronic gear. However, the burgee must be hoisted to the spreader (or “two-blocked”). Other flags may be hosted beneath the club burgee in the following order: Association burgee (if a yacht club burgee is also being flown, officer’s flag, owner’s flag and other message flags. Yachts at anchor must display the ensign on a staff placed in a socket located on the starboard stern rail or pulpit as close to the centerline as feasible.

Most people re-read this piece to recap the order of code flags for dressing a ship. On the fourth of July and other special occasions, yachts may dress a ship when at anchor. The International Code Flags are displayed from the waterline forward to the waterline aft, using weights at the end in the following order arranged to the effect color patterns throughout, starting forward: AB2 UJ1, KE3, GH6, LV5, FL4, DM7, PO 3rd repeater, RN 1st repeater, ST0, CX9, WQ8, ZY 2nd repeater. This is just a suggested order of the code flags, but good luck telling your club’s inspections committee that there is no real prescribed order. With few exceptions, vessels shall make colors only between the hours of 0800 and sunset. All colors should be struck at sundown, which includes yacht club burgees, fun flags, fish catch flags, code flags for dressing ships, etc.

Sea ya.


Len Bose is a yachting enthusiast, yacht broker and harbor columnist for Stu News Newport.


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