The Newport Ocean Sailing Association (NOSA) was founded in 1947 and has grown to become the organizer of many of Southern California’s traditional boat races. The organization has a rich history of race sponsorship under the stewardship of its presidents and committees.
The founding members of NOSA met in 1947 to organize a small, just-for-fun race for sailors coming out of World War II. Newport Harbor Yacht Club hosted the first race, called at the time, the Governor’s Cup. A total of 117 boats paid $22.50 each to compete in the first 125-nautical mile race from Newport Beach, Calif. to Ensenada, Mexico on April 23, 1948. With winds estimated at 25–35 knots, only 65 boats finished the race that year.
With an emphasis on camaraderie as well as competition, the cup was renamed the Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race and quickly began to attract thousands of well-known racers, fun-seeking novices and celebrities from around the world. People such as movie producer Milton Bren, well-known actors Buddy Ebsen and Humphrey Bogart, Walter Cronkite, comedienne Vicki Lawrence and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Paul Conrad have raced alongside world-class skippers like Dennis Conner, Bill Ficker and Dave Ullman.
With more than 20 classes, the race includes a variety of sea-going boats ranging from top ultra-light and maxi-yachts to the non-spinnaker classes. The racing teams compete for the coveted First-to-Finish Honors, the President of the United States Trophy and the President of Mexico Trophy, among many other awards.
In 1983 a record 675 boats entered the race, and with 400 to 500 boats competing every year the colorful race has earned the title “world’s largest international yacht race.”
In 2009, the race started before spectators on Balboa Pier instead of just outside the entrance to Newport Bay. Winds blew steadily from start to finish at 9-12 knots, even in Todos Santos Bay near the finish line, and from an off-wind direction that allowed everyone to sail the rhumb (direct) line all the way. Of 260 starters, there were 257 finishers, and all finished by 4 p.m. Saturday, 19 hours ahead of the usual 11 a.m. Sunday cutoff time.
The benevolent breeze allowed Doug Baker’s Magnitude 80, an Andrews 80 from Long Beach, to set a race record for monohulls of 10 hours 37 minutes 50 seconds—7 minutes 3 seconds faster than the record of 10:44:54 set by Roy E. Disney’s Pyewacket III, a Reichel/Pugh 77, in 2003.
The multihull record of 6:46:40 set by the late Steve Fossett’s 60-foot Stars and Stripes catamaran in 1998 remains intact as the only boat ever to finish before sundown, although H.L. (Loe) Enloe’s Loe Real, a 60-foot trimaran from San Diego, recorded the second fastest time ever for a multihull of 8:45:03.