Media boats and well wishers buzzed around the fleet leader as she entered Newport harbor, the culmination of 35,000 nautical miles at sea.
The win was made all the more sweet as it was a real comeback; Dongfeng had been forced to pull out of the last leg due to a broken mast.
The French skipper of the Chinese team paid tribute to the shore crew who managed to fit a new rig in under a week in Brazil. “For this leg, the goal was to be ready in Itajai and the (shore) crew did a fantastic job. I’d like to give them the victory,” said Charles Caudrelier.
“I’m very proud of them and very happy to take this first place. They worked very hard to get this boat ready. I’m really, really happy.”
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing made Caudrelier and his men work all the way for the win after 17 days at sea and even threatened to overturn their lead as they passed Block Island 30 nautical miles from the finish. In the end, Abu Dhabi was second, just three and a half minutes after the winner.
Several hours later Team Alvimedica enjoyed a warm hometown welcome. An estimated 7,000 people turned out in the race village and Brenton Point State Park, many passionate Alvimedica supporters.
While the first boats finished around 10pm, Alvimedica made it in around 3:30am and the faithful braved a bitter cold evening to cheer them in.
“It’s pretty humbling to see all these guys out here at such an obscure hour in no wind for such a long period of time, said skipper Charlie Enright.
“Obviously, not the result we were looking for by any means, but it’s always good to be home,” he said.
The team, which boasts the youngest crew in the race, is on a steep learning curve.
Serious fans were easy to spot, proudly sporting their team gear. Tori Gimple and her daughter Megan were Alvimedia proud head to toe – literally. There were hats, scarves, jerseys and even ‘Aliv-cures’ – matching Alvimedia pedicures!
They have been following Alvimedica since last summer and have been supporting in all manner of ways, including themed cupcakes.
The Gimple family of Stonington, CT is quite the sailing family. Tori met her husband in college sailing and all three children inherited the passion. Their youngest girl sails Optimists and 420s, their son races offshore now (Tori jokes ‘since at 6’3” he doesn’t fit in a dinghy anymore) and oldest daughter is on the Cornell Sailing Team.
Another team with a committed fan base is the all-women Team SCA. Although they finished last place the following day, their fans were the undeterred. A sea of magenta flags, umbrellas, banners and people clothed in their signature navy and magenta (don’t say pink!) enthusiastically cheered them in.
Fans came from far and wide, some employees of sponsor SCA. Pierette Richard of New Brunswick, Canada, who is Atlantic Regional Sales Director for SCA, explained she was one the six adults and four children selected as hosts this week. She said she is honored to be chosen and inspired by Team SCA.
“I feel inspired by the amazing women sailors who overcome challenges to achieve their goal and live their dream. They strive to be the best they can be!”
As someone who wants very much to expand the sport of sailing I was excited to meet quite a few curious non-sailors who came out to learn more. I chatted with two Rhode Island families who shared they are planning to take sailing lessons after witnessing the arrivals.
As their tagline says, the Volvo Ocean Race is ‘life at the extreme.’ It’s relationships that make it all possible, both on and off the water.
Onboard reporting gives us a feel for the trusted teamwork during the race – when lives can be on the line. During arrivals and departures we can share in the tender moments with those who support from a distance.