NEWPORT, R.I. (May 7, 2015) - Kyle and Emily, students at local Salve Regina University, are enjoying a beverage in the Heineken beer garden on another sun-splashed day at the Volvo Ocean Race Newport Race Village. Both are Rhode Islanders, from Scituate and Foster, respectively, but neither sails. They're amazed, however, at the spectacle that is the Volvo Ocean Race Newport Stopover.
"It's cool that our small state was able to land this international race," said Kyle. "I didn't know much about it, but it's very cool that it's here in Newport."
"It's so interactive," said Emily. "There's so much technology involved. I've never seen anything like it in Newport. It's amazing."
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The early reviews of the Race Village at Fort Adams State Park are all positive, especially after last night's arrivals. Dongfeng Race Team and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing finished within three and a half minutes of each other in an astoundingly close finish that saw the two crews jockeying for the lead through the final miles of the 5,010-nautical mile leg from Brazil that took 17 days to complete.
Even though they finished past 10 p.m. on a school night, there were an estimated 7,000 people in the race village and at Brenton Point State Park watching and cheering and close to 200 boats on the water. The Newport Artillery Company fired a cannon each time a crew crossed the finish line off Fort Adams.
"I think last night the City of Newport blew every stopover out of the water in terms of how many people showed up and the number of boats," said Sam Greenfield, the 27-year-old part-time Newporter from Mystic, Conn., who's the onboard reporter for leg winner Dongfeng.
"Auckland (New Zealand) had a lot of boats for a while, but in terms of being swamped and surrounded by motor boats, it almost felt like we'd won the race overall," Greenfield said. "Boats were coming up and trying to high five us, it was unbelievable."
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Matt Knighton, Greenfield's counterpart on Abu Dhabi, had similar feelings.
"It was very cool," said 31-year-old Knighton, of Chicago, Ill. "Every stopover we have a flotilla that welcomes us in but this was the first one that had American flags flying off the back of the boats. It was really cool to see that and hear some familiar accents."
"All of the stopovers have a different feel, but none of them have boats sailing back and forth in the Race Village. There are hundreds of boats on the water every day. The nautical setup here is unlike any other race village we've been to," said Knighton.
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A smaller group of fans even stuck around until 3:30 a.m. when the hometown team, Team Alvimedica, crossed the finish line after battling light winds and an ebb tide. At one point the ebb tide was winning, sweeping Alvimedica out of Narragansett Bay and away from the finish line. The crew needed 90 minutes to get from Castle Hill to the finish line off Fort Adams, a distance of less than 1 mile. Still, there were 35 boats on the water and a few dozen people in the Race Village to welcome the crew with strong ties to Newport.
"If you want a passionate fan base and to fill seats, you look at the pure numbers, Newport's going to be a great stopover," said skipper Charlie Enright of Bristol, R.I., at 30 the youngest skipper of the youngest crew in the race.
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