Photo: Joy Fox
Bathed in sunshine and the warmest temperatures of the year, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Sail Newport Executive Director Brad Read and other dignitaries this afternoon officially opened the Race Village for the Volvo Ocean Race Newport Stopover at Fort Adams State Park.
The Race Village is open daily through May 17 and admission is free to all ages. Hosted by Sail Newport, Rhode Island's Public Sailing Center, the Volvo Ocean Race Newport Stopover marks the race's only visit to North America. The stopover is hosted with support from the State of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM), the City of Newport and Discover Newport.
The 12-day public celebration will feature racing off the shore of Fort Adams State Park the weekend of May 14-17, and a marine Exploration Zone that opens Saturday, May 9. Concerts and other entertainment, sponsor pavilions, family games, a "Life at the Extreme" theater, team compounds, try sailing, kids activities, concerts and a working boatyard are also part of the experience. The Volvo Ocean 65 race boats and a unique cross-section showing belowdecks are available for public viewing.
The village opened two years and three months to the day after Newport was announced as the North American port on Feb. 5, 2013. This is first time that the storied race, first contested in 1973-'74, is visiting the City-by-the-Sea and the first boat is predicted to finish Thursday.
"Hosting the only North American stop for the Volvo Ocean Race is an exciting opportunity for Rhode Island to showcase to the world all that our state has to offer, from our beautiful state parks to great restaurants and small businesses," said Governor Raimondo. "I am excited for this round-the-world race to put our state, especially Fort Adams State Park, on the map as a premier destination to host other world class sailing and ocean-related events."
"This opening culminates two long years of planning," said Read. "We couldn't be happier welcoming the Volvo Ocean Race to our wonderful city of Newport. Sailors around the world consider Newport one of the best destinations for its scenery, hospitality and great conditions for sailing."
Also joining the ceremony were Congressman David N. Cicilline, Director of the RI DEM Janet Coit, Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano, and Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad.
Youth sailors from Portsmouth High School, the Prout School and St. George's School practiced on Newport Harbor in the background of the ceremony, and others from Middletown High School, Rogers High School and the Prout School participated in a parade representing the nations in the Volvo Ocean Race.
"We have high expectations for Newport," said Frostad. "We think it'll be a tremendous stopover. The Race Village is open to the public and very easy to be a part of." Part of the Opening Ceremony included the dedication of the new North Pier at Fort Adams, a 240-foot long concrete pier with seven rows of floating docks capable of berthing craft from dinghies to 65-foot yachts, whether sail or power.
Funded through the state's annual capital improvement program, the pier is one of several capital improvements at Fort Adams State Park. Constructed over the past year, it will host the six yachts arriving with the Volvo Ocean Race.
The pier, which will berth the state's official educational sailing vessel Oliver Hazard Perry, was designed by Louis Berger Architects and St. Jean Engineering, both of Providence. Middletown-based construction group Reagan Construction completed the work. "Expanding the park's ability to welcome more boats of varying sizes is important as we work to attract even more visitors and water-related events," said Director Coit. "This strategic investment will help promote Fort Adams State Park as an accessible and welcoming destination for years to come." The new pier was made possible with the support of the Senate president Paiva Weed, a native of Newport. Paiva Weed is recognized as a champion for initiatives to preserve Narragansett Bay and establish renewable energy projects.
"This investment in a new pier enables us to attract world-class events to Newport and enhances public access to the Bay," said Senate President Paiva Weed. "Fort Adams State Park is an asset that promotes economic development and tourism, and this investment benefits the community of Newport and the State of Rhode Island."
The Volvo Ocean Race features seven sailors with strong ties to Newport and two more from the U.S. for a total of nine American sailors. Team Alvimedica skipper Charlie Enright, from Bristol, R.I., is the youngest skipper in the race at 30 years of age. Other Newporters include Nick Dana and Amory Ross (the boat captain and onboard reporter, respectively, for Team Alvimedica), Sam Greenfield (onboard reporter for Dongfeng Race Team), Corinna Halloran (onboard reporter for Team SCA). South Dakotan Sarah Hastreiter (crew Team SCA) and Hawaiian Mark Towill (co-founder and watch captain of Team Alvimedica) both call Newport their adopted home.
Other Americans in the race include Sally Barkow (Waukesha, Wis.), a helmsperson for Team SCA, and Matt Knighton (Chicago, Il.), the onboard reporter for overall race leader Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. A 10th sailor, Sophie Ciszek of Team SCA, holds dual Australian and American citizenship.