By Bob Naylor
My brother and I spent a weekend at the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Newport and had an absolute blast. It was a great, very memorable experience for us.
The weather was not cooperative! I haven’t been that cold and wet in a very long time; but, it worked in our favor to some extent. The rain, wind, fog, drizzle, and cold temperatures really reduced the crowds. Those who bundled up and braved the weather were a hardy, die-hard, lot—and a great deal of fun to be with.
Never had I enjoyed a hot bowl of clam chowder more than that Friday when I had seriously underestimated the weather and utterly failed to anticipate the misery of a wet and very windy New England day, exploring the Race Village exhibits in my favorite pair of Arizona shorts and a sailing-themed Hawaiian shirt.
Just to ensure hypothermia had every opportunity to set in, we then joined a small, rain sodden, crowd of sailing enthusiasts to watch the M32 catamaran races from the windy shore of Fort Adams. To give you some idea of the wind that day, the M32s raced with a reefed main and no headsail. It was WINDY.
I dressed more reasonably for the rest of the weekend, although I was still cold—and wet—much of the time. I twice ran into Daniel Forster at Fort Adams. You’ll remember he was our AYC guest speaker in April, sharing with us the best sailing photographs from his long long career photographing sailboats. He was set up along the sea wall at Fort Adams, properly dressed in heavy foul weather gear and taking photos on Friday of the M32 cat race and on Saturday of the in-port race. We had fun catching up, and he provided some good local tips for us as well. Very nice guy.
Saturday morning, windshield wipers slapping all the way, we drove to nearby Bristol, RI, and toured the Herreshoff Museum. That was a great couple of hours as well—lots of gorgeous wooden boats, sailboats and motor launches, designed by Nathaniel Herreshoff, who also designed all of the winning America’s Cup boats from about 1890 to 1930 or so. We could have easily spent the day there, but left after a few hours to return to the Race Village for the in-port race.
The in-port race on Saturday also had strong winds, though not as heavy as the day before. The Volvo Ocean 65s handled the heavy air much better than the catamarans did the day before.
Following a really cold and wet afternoon of watching a really great race, we made our way from the Race Village to the Newport Yacht Club, where my AYC membership card was welcomed, albeit suspiciously (Arizona, really?). We enjoyed drinks and dinner there in the company of some lively, fun, local Newport sailors, really a great bunch of folks who made us feel right at home.
My AYC membership card generated a lot of conversation. People seemed amazed to learn that we sail in the desert, and they are equally confused to find that we mostly stop sailing for the summer months, just as they’re launching for a few short months of sailing in Narragansett Bay (which looks like some awesome sailing, by the way).
To the amazement of all, the pea-soup fog and drizzle on Sunday dissipated about 40 minutes before the start of Leg 9. The gray skies, half-mile visibility, and the moaning of the fog horns gave way to sunshine and blue skies (the first we had seen all weekend!), and the start of the Leg-9 race was really great, with plenty of wind.
We were aboard a boat in the VIP spectator zone and had a wonderful view of the race. It was great fun to be in the armada of spectator boats that chased the VO65s out as far as the sea buoy, where heavy swells forced most boats to head back in for the day.
Then came Monday and the drive to the airport. The sun was shining brightly, birds were singing, it was WARM and DRY with a lovely and slight spring breeze—an absolutely beautiful day. Nature is cruel that way.