PROVIDENCE – Newport will be the only North American destination for what some call the toughest sporting competition in the world, the around-the-world Ocean Race.
Bristol-born skipper Charlie Enright compares the IMOCA 60 racing boat he and his teammates are sailing around the world to an F1 race car – but one that almost literally flies, with winds up to 60 miles per hour propelling it so fast it rises up above the waves on its twin hydrofoils until the keel isn’t touching the water at all. As if by some sort of black magic, at times the boat can actually travel faster than the speed of the wind propelling it.
Enright, who spoke briefly at a press conference at the State House on Wednesday, will soon fly back to Brazil – his 11thth Hour Racing teammates are vying with four other crews in one of the most extreme sporting competitions in the world, sailing 32,000 miles at a breakneck pace from Alicante, Spain, to Genova, Italy, with stops at seven other iconic international cities along the way. As in past years, Newport is the only North American stop in the entire six-month endeavor, a testament to the City-by-the-Sea’s international reputation and rich sailing legacy.
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What is the Ocean Race?
The Ocean Race, which was inaugurated back in 1973 as the Whitbread Round the World Race, is often described as the longest and toughest professional sporting event in the world. It is considered to be sailing’s toughest team challenge and is one of the sport’s “Big Three” events, along with the Olympics and the America’s Cup (which is the oldest international competition still operating in any sport, and is so named for the schooner America’s 1851 victory in a race around the British Isle of Wight and the subsequent decision of its owners to permanently donate the trophy to the New York Yacht Club in Newport).
This year marks the 14th edition of the Ocean Race. Five IMOCA 60 sailboats started from Alicante, Spain, on Jan. 15, and will finish in Genova, Italy, in the early summer. The race visits nine iconic cities around the globe over a six-month period:
This year’s race featured a leg with the longest racing distance in the 50-year history of the event – a 12,750 nautical mile, one-month marathon from Cape Town, South Africa to Itajaí, Brazil – and for the first time passed all three great southern capes – the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, Cape Leeuwin in Australia, and Cape Horn in Chile – non-stop.
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When will the Ocean Race fleet arrive in Newport?
The race heads for Newport from Itajaí, Brazil, on April 23. The 5,500-nautical mile segment navigates north along the US eastern seaboard with an anticipated arrival in Newport on May 10 to 12.
After the leg finishes at Fort Adams State Park, the sailors will have completed four of the seven legs of the race and covered 24,800 nautical miles, or 77 percent of the course.
Adjacent to the race boats at the Sail Newport docks in Fort Adams State Park, Sail Newport, the State of Rhode Island and 11th Hour Racing will host a festival titled Ocean Live Park which will be open to the public for free every day May 13 – May 21.
Visitors will have an opportunity to watch some sailboat races, participate in children’s activities and outdoor family games, music, and enjoy a festive atmosphere featuring food trucks, entertainment, cocktail cafes, special events, and sailor parades.
The 2015 and 2018 race stopovers, also held at Fort Adams, brought tens of thousands of local and international visitors to Newport and generated tens of millions of dollars in economic activity.
The Ocean Race is sponsored by Newport-based 11th Hour Racing
11th Hour Racing is an organization founded by philanthropist Wendy Schmidt (wife of former Google CEO Erik Schmidt and herself an accomplished sailor) that mobilizes sailing, maritime, and coastal communities to inspire solutions for climate change-related issues in the ocean and foster environmental responsibility within the sport of sailing. The name is intended to convey the urgency of the need to tackle climate change.
In addition to sponsoring the entire competition, the organization backs the 11th Hour Racing Team skippered by Enright, which is the only American entry in the race. Amory Ross of Newport is also participating as the team’s onboard media crew member.
How to track the Ocean Race
People can visit theoceanracenewport.com for information on how to follow the race, check the event schedule and music line-ups, and receive team updates from the middle of the ocean.
“Rhode Islanders have been welcoming seafarers to our port for nearly 400 years. There’s no better place than Newport to welcome these sailors and this thrilling race, to our bay, our city and our incredible state,” said Sail Newport Executive Director Brad Read.
This article originally appeared on Newport Daily News: Newport RI to be only North American port for 11th Hour Ocean Race