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After 40 years of sailing and racing around Newport Harbor, the Amante gets its day

Buddy Richley stands on the deck of the racing boat Amante in Newport Harbor.
Buddy Richley stands on the deck of the racing boat Amante in Newport Harbor. The Richley family will celebrate the 40th birthday of the boat, which has been a fixture in Newport Harbor. It has taken Mr. Irrelevant as a passenger and has been to Hawaii and Cabo San Lucas many times.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Richley boys were in their 20s when their father, Mel Richley, purchased the Amante from Dennis Choate in 1982.

“It wasn’t completed when we bought it,” recalled Buddy Richley, now 64, in an interview on Thursday. “But we ordered it that way. We, as a family, installed all the winches and all the deck hardware and all the varnish and everything down below.”

They bought it for about $200,000 then. Richley estimates that in 2022, such a boat could very well cost $1.5 million.

The Amante (Spanish for “lover”) is iconic around Newport Harbor. Normally docked at the family’s bay-front house on Lido Isle, the 48-foot sailboat has seen dozens of races in its years out on the water. The family has run it in the Trans-Pacific Yacht Race, the Corona del Mar to Cabo San Lucas races and, especially, in the Newport to Ensenada race.

The boat also takes Mr. Irrelevant — the last pick in the National Football League’s draft who is feted around town annually — for an outing in Newport Harbor.

Crew members on the Amante, a 39-year-old Choate 48, sit on the rail and set sail.
Crew members on the Amante, a 39-year-old Choate 48, sit on the rail and set sail as they head for the border during the start of the 73rd Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race off the Balboa Pier in 2021.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Buddy Richley thinks there may have been thousands of sailors on the Amante over the decades. Some came aboard as teenagers and continued onto professional careers in the sailing industry.

Now that it’s been 40 years since the boat came into the family, the Richleys plan on celebrating the sailboat’s birthday this Saturday.

“It’s brought so many people together and there’s so many memories connected with the boat that it’s kind of a family member,” said Richley. “So, why not have a party?”

Richley joked Thursday that only people who sailed on the boat or have supplied material for the boat are invited to come, which brings the expected number of guests down to a nice, even “3 million.”

His brother, Tim Richley, said the Amante’s been a learning platform for a lot of people, including friend David Marchese, who now works in the sailing business professionally. Marchese said they started sailing together on the family’s Newport 30, then raced the Amante.

Ricki Richley and son Buddy will celebrate the 40th birthday of the racing sailboat Amante, docked at right.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“You’ll invite somebody and once they go sailing, they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I love sailing,’ and they’ll either stay on the boat for a while and join the crew or go to [Orange Coast College] and learn how to sail better through courses,” said Tim Richley.

Marchese said he thinks he got the sailing bug from when he started racing with the Richleys.

“They’re just a great family. Mel Richley was common around the yacht club and all the boys were all very athletic and just super open and willing,” said Marchese. “I moved [to Newport Beach] in 1972. I wasn’t born here. A lot of families are very not receptive to people that weren’t born here, but they were just always open and accepting.

“I think that’s where everything started. Their house was always open. That’s what gave us all the opportunity — that Mel was willing to take younger guys on and train us up.”

The sailing ropes of the racing boat Amante.
The sailing ropes of the racing boat Amante. The Richley family will celebrate the 40th birthday of the racing sailboat this Saturday in Newport Harbor.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Steve Richley said he has so many memories on the boat that he couldn’t pick just one.

He remembered his stepmother, Ricki Richley, used to always be cooking for the crew on the long races. He remembered the casual trips to Catalina and fishing they’d do when they weren’t racing for first place.

Tim Richley said he remembers the Amante’s mast breaking during a race to Catalina, so the crew ended up having to motor over. It was about 15 or 17 years ago, he said, but he still remembers one of his brothers tying up a flag with images of frothy beer mugs to the top of the mast and the crew motoring into port with it aflutter.

Steve Richley describes the Amante as a “grandfather” boat.

“We’re still kicking ass over the big boats with all the expensive technology,” he said. “It’s an older boat, and all we’re doing is keeping up the paint and the sails; it’s the crew that matters. [The Amante’s] just been the greatest boat to be on because it’s always friendly. Everyone’s happy.”

Tim and Buddy Richley, from left, stand on racing boat Amante in Newport Harbor.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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