Newport Beach Harbor races toward increasing speed limit during regattas

City Council approves Harbor Commission’s agency cooperation recommendation on harbor speed limit for sailing events.

NEWPORT BEACH — A consent calendar item seeking to coordinate with multiple agencies on extending speed limit restrictions to regattas and sailing events was approved by the Newport Beach City Council.

Newport Beach Harbor Commission sought the council’s permission to pursue speaking with other agencies, such as the Department of Boating and Waterways, to extend the current speed limit of 5 nautical miles per hour during regatta races and sailing events.

The council voted unanimously to allow Harbor Commission to forward proposed speed limits to the state for review.

“Given that some racing activities in the Harbor can mean that some boats exceed posted speed limits (generally 5 nautical miles per hour), one item would ask the council for permission to speak with other relevant agencies (like CA Department of Boating and Waterways) to maybe allow exceedances of the limit for races and similar events,” city staff stated in a newsletter to council members.

Overall, Harbor Commission found the Municipal Code’s speed limits in the harbor should have exceptions related to human or wind-powered vessels during sailing races and other applicable events. Before the code can be officially changed, however, it would need to be approved at the state level.

“In the Newport Beach staff report, it was stated the Harbor Commission had the goal of changing the speed limit for races since 2008. Further, significant feedback was received for the public in favor of this change,” the staff report stated. “The intent of the exceptions is to allow human powered craft or wind powered vessels to travel at speeds above five nautical miles per hour over city tidelands under certain conditions such as races and practices via a city issued permit.

“In addition, support vessels during these events would also be permitted to travel in excess of the speed limit,” the staff report continued. “However, no vessels may operate in an uncontrolled, un-seamanlike manner or at a speed that endangers the safety of persons or property.”

According to the report, Orange County officials were also consulted and, “aside from some operational concerns that staff can address, they conceptually agreed that the city could change the speed limit over city tidelands.”

Implementation of the speed limit exceptions is anticipated to be in place by the end of 2018.

Photo: Shutterstock

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