This was the 1st or 2nd annual Rose Island Lighthouse Battle Of The Bay Paddle race up in Newport, Rhode Island. The race was held on a beautiful Saturday morning in early August. I had an amazing time paddling with some great watermen and waterwomen through all sorts of conditions in the waters off Newport.
We met and checked in at the beautiful Fort Adams State Park . The check-in was smooth and well run, staffed with super friendly people. After the check-in we had plenty of time to get our gear set up, warm up, and stretch before they had the race preview on the beach. There were all sorts of racing craft there from a variety of racing and flat water standups to surf skis, sea kayaks, prone paddleboards, and even an outrigger canoe!
Officials started the race off in heats off the dock at Fort Adams . I did the 6-mile race so I was in the last wave. There were a few sailboat races about to start at the same time which is my only slight criticism. With a bit more prep it would have been nice to keep all boats clear of our race start. The course went straight through Newport harbor, past Rose Island on the left and Goat Island on the right and straight under the Newport Bridge. I was not listening to the race prep (focusing most of my attention on the outrigger) and during the race realized that I didn’t know if I was suppose to hit the East buoy on my way out or back in. Found out later we only had to round it on the way in but I hit it both ways just in case. This turned out to be a good thing because the current was outgoing and ripping hard. Hitting the East buoy brought me into I bit more sheltered waters and less current.
Passing under the Newport bridge, I couldn’t believe how fast it was flowing. There must have been at least 3 knots of current because, as I escaped the eddie that I rode right up behind the piling, the change in water speed almost knocked me off my board! Making my way closer to the turn-around buoy I got to see some trainees going through PT off my starboard side at the Naval Station. It was a good sign to see some of the surf ski racers cruising back with the current for the finish.
I rounded the 180 degree turn around buoy, said “Hi” to the officials, and started heading for the finish as well. I passed under the Newport bridge, made it to the 90 degree turn buoy and headed almost straight West (compensating for the still strong outgoing current) to the Rose Island finish. The best part of the race was coming around the South side of Rose Island and paddling up to the pebble beach just under the lighthouse. There were some friend and family spectators and a bunch of volunteer staff to greet me.
I have never been to Rose Island and was amazed at the beauty all around. I grabbed a water, bagel, and coffee (all provided by the awesome race volunteers) and took a tour to the top of the lighthouse and all around the grounds. I couldn’t believe that many of the rooms around the grounds (including the lighthouse keeper’s room) were available to rent B&B style and the prices sounded super affordable! There was an amazing little awards ceremony and raffle at the foot of the lighthouse on a hill overlooking Newport harbor. I was stoked to take 1st in my division and to meet some really cool people. We had the option to grab a ride on the support boat or paddle back to the race start where our cars were. I chose the latter and fell like 5 times. My legs and back felt like jello!
I highly recommend this race to anyone thinking about it. I would register early because I heard one of the officials saying that they are going to try to keep it small. This could be an ultimate family weekend get-away too if you were able to rent a room in the Rose Island lighthouse for a couple nights too!