Some members of Liberty Yacht Club had an opportunity to travel to Newport, RI to watch the in-port race and the next leg’s race start of the iconic Volvo Ocean Race. And, they were not disappointed. Two days of watching these thoroughbred boats race around a course so close to shore was a great experience!
The Volvo Ocean Race had its humble beginnings as the Whitbread Round the World Race which was the first crewed sailboat race to circumnavigate the earth in 1973. Looking back now, it’s hard to imagine that just five years prior to that, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person in history to sail non-stop solo around the world. Racing the world’s oceans in a quest to be the fastest team (or person) to completely circle the earth is a relatively “new” sport. But, with the technological advances of the past 40 years, it is becoming increasingly more sophisticated with an array of electronics and satellite communications, high-tech carbon boats and the ability to sail at 25 knots or faster. The only things that hasn’t changed, is the grit and tenacity it takes to push oneself beyond one’s limits and the fact that these racers will encounter all Mother Nature has to offer from sunny, calm seas to 50-foot storm whipped waves, gale force winds, blinding rain and snow and the occasional iceberg!
Today’s Volvo Ocean Race is now a 9-10 leg affair with stops all around the world, covering over 40,000 miles. The Newport stopover was just the latest stopover and a great treat for North American fans to see these boats and sailors up close as well as to witness some great tactical match racing.
Saturday’s in-port race, although a rainy drizzly affair, was an exciting race with Team Brunel taking the start and carrying the lead through the course. I should mention that the course ran parallel to shore to the delight of fans watching from Fort Adams. Things got a little exciting when ScalleywagHK decided to head through the spectator fleet to find less adverse current in the light wind sailing. At one point near the finish, it looked like the 70-ft racer would need to tack between two large spectator boats. Fortunately, the spectator boats quickly moved out of the way.
On Sunday it was questionable if there would be any racing to see. The morning was one of thick fog with visibility of only a hundred feet of or so. However, by the time the race started at 2 pm, the fog burned off, the sun came out and the wind picked up to 15-20 knots. It was a spectacular afternoon of racing! The start was great, with all seven boats virtually crossing the line together but Team Brunel quickly took the lead, rounded the first mark and maintained their lead through the gates and out to the Atlantic Ocean.
Now the exciting ocean racing begins. Next stop, Cardiff, Wales.