Remote Control Sailing In Newport

Mike Toppa, sailmaker to the superyachts, turned to Dragon Flite 95 racing as a competitive outlet during the pandemic.

Brad Read looks out his office window across Newport Harbor’s Brenton Cove, observing how the puffs fan across the racecourse that’s spitting distance from his ­public-sailing operation’s docks. Small pink and green buoys he set earlier outline the miniature racecourse. Alongside him at his desk is his 37-inch remote-controlled Dragon Flite 95 racing sailboat, Hatey-Eight, a nod to the Beantown puck-slinger David Pastrnak. The color scheme, of course, is black and gold.

Outside Sail Newport’s headquarters, competitors arrive one by one, raceboats in hand, mylar sails flapping in the breeze. They are the co-founders of Sail Newport’s Thumb Yachting Guild: race programs director Nick Ewenson, pro sailor Anthony Kotoun and round-the-world storyteller Amory Ross. There’s Henry DiPietro, the flock’s shepherd, and his wife, Janet, the scorekeeper. They too have their colorful and decorated vessels in hand. Others eventually straggle in. Today there might be six sailors. Next week there will be 10, and then 15, 20—and so the guild’s roster grows week by week, almost day by day…

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