Two years ago, when SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (Nov. 5, 1956) introduced the Newporter to the general public, the beamy 40-footer was making a small splash in California. Since then, despite somewhat motor-boatish looks that scare off staunch traditionalists, an astounding total of 74 Newporters has been sold. Never in the history of pleasure yachting have so many so willingly bought a design of such size. The Newporter is now the largest class of family cruising sailboats in the world.
The reasons for her success, astonishing even by California standards, are her price ($27,500) and the fact that she was designed with more of an eye for cruising comfort than for racing speed. Careful and successful attention has been given to such design problems as space, e.g.: berths ranging from six-four to six-eight in length, six-foot four-inch minimum headroom throughout, a deep cockpit seating 10, a 22-inch-high mahogany taffrail to hold children in and a roomy and comfortable interior.
A huge doghouse amidships has caused some old salts to classify her as a motor sailer. However, more and more Newporters are finding their way into racing. In the last Ensenada Race, three sailed in the Ocean Racing class. Another has sailed from Los Angeles to Hawaii under working sails in 15 days and 20 hours, not fast, but not slow when you consider her rating (between 25 and 27).
But essentially the Newporter is a family boat built for the man with a carload of kids. She sleeps six, with a seventh berth optional. The Gray Marine engine has a 450-mile cruising range. With diesel, her range is extended to 1,200 miles. All exposed surfaces outside the cabin, except the mahogany trim, are fiber-glass-covered for ease of maintenance.
The man behind the Newporter is Clarence Ackerman, designer and builder in Newport, Calif. for the past 30 years. Ackerman wanted a strong and livable hull for his personal use in the South Seas. He has yet to own one of his own boats.
"So many friends wanted a boat like it I had to set up a production line," he complains, not very complainingly. "I even sold my first boat. Then I decided No. 18 would be mine, but I didn't get that one either. So I put my name down for No. 25, then No. 50. Now I'm down for No. 100. That one I am going to get."
Ackerman always had wanted to build a boat that had plenty of space and little upkeep. He keeps production costs down by using assembly-line methods, but even so considers the Newporter the most durable boat he has ever made. Until recently, Newporters were a phenomenon peculiar only to California's bustling boat-building industry. But distributors have been set up in Mexico, Hawaii, Seattle, Boston, Chicago and Georgetown, Md. And now Newporters are being constructed in the East. A New Jersey builder has a franchise to assemble and sell Newporters at about $1,000 more than what they cost on the Coast.
Ackerman still hopes to make his way down to the South Seas, but if business continues to be as good as it has been the chances are it will be Ackerman's customers, and not Ackerman, who will sail tropical waters in the days to come.