Newport is a sailor’s town. From the moment you enter the harbor or cross the Pell Bridge’s center span, it feels like home. Come summertime, the harbor is brimming with masts and encircled by a bustling waterfront with bars, shops, and eateries. As you read this, the City-by-the-Sea will be the Volvo Ocean Race city by the sea. There will be sailors, sponsors, race fans, and guests pouring in across the bridges and onto Aquidneck Island.
As for the locals? Well, they’re pretty much running the show. They’ve been planning and build- ing from the ground up for the better part of two years, and they’re ready for the arrival of the most inspiring international sport- ing event. It’s about the Festival, the experience, the concerts, and the party. There will be plenty of hands-on activities for the kids to explore, imagine, and play, and there will be racing—right off the shoreline of Fort Adams State Park, which through the support of Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management, has been transformed into the remarkable Race Village. “The hope,” says Janet Coit, DEM’s director, “is for everyone to have an incredible experience, so we can host the stopover next time as well. This will be an unprecedented event for Rhode Island.”
DEM, in partnership with Sail Newport, invested nearly $4 million in capital improvements to the site. The most significant addition to the site is a 242-foot fixed pier for the raceboats. “The partnership with DEM and Sail Newport is extraordinary,” says Coit. “The fact that it is a public facility, with the full power of the state to sort through obstacles, and then we have this very specialized team with Sail Newport that knows the sailing world and can attract, with credibility, a race of this stature. It’s an amazing partnership that’s a greater sum than its parts.”
Sustainability is a key element of the stopover. With the support of local partners, a long list of initiatives are in place, including low-waste water solutions and wastewater treatment, on-site recycling, environmental boating practices, and climate and energy use, with low-emission transportation options and the use of biodiesel fuel for race assets. The National Biodiesel Board is providing blends of biodiesel for use on the Volvo 65 race boats and in generators and vehicles associated with shoreside facilities.
The Race Village opens May 5, and the boats are expected to arrive soon after. If the close finishes experienced thus far at other stopovers are any indication, spectators can anticipate even closer racing as teams finish a stone’s throw from the Fort. Once the sailors and sponsors are in town, the place will be hopping. Midweek is a great time to take in all the Village has to offer, but the on-the-water action is scheduled for the stopover’s final weekend.
Arrivals (May 5 to 9) Day or night, the locals will be out to greet the teams after their sprint from Brazil, and the crews are always eager to share stories and enjoy an intimate beer. It’s a great chance to meet them up close and in person.
Practice Racing (May 14), Pro-Am Racing (May 15), In-Port Race (May 16) The Pro-Am and In-Port racecourses will be set just off the Race Village, and will be especially perfect for spectators saddled at the Pier Bar (see map), especially if the current is running strong, forcing the boats to maneuver close to the shore. These one-hour races are fast-paced, and the prize giving party at the Fort should not be missed.
Leg Start (May 17) Those who have experienced a Volvo Ocean Race stopover before will agree the highlight is the leg start. As a party and tearful send off for the families, it’s an action-packed day that starts with the morning dock-out ceremony, continues with a few laps on an in-port racecourse, and ends as the fleet exits the bay, past Castle Hill, bound for Lisbon and beyond.