"This race is the last great adventure. Short of going to the moon, it’s one of the biggest adventures you can do," said Ian Walker, skipper of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, the current leader in the grueling round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race.
A marathon chess game on the water, with larger-than-life characters; sexy, fast boats; exotic destinations; and, yes, danger, the adventure made its only American stopover in Newport, RI.
I wasn’t the only San Francisco sailor on hand to watch the spectacle. Justin Kromelow, skipper of the J/70 Loose Lucy, was thinking about making the trip when serendipity arrived in the form of the St. Francis Sailing Foundation Charity Auction. He bid on a special behind-the-scenes tour with Team Alvimedica, and to his delight, he won.
Kromelow is a fan of the American team’s youthful energy. "Too often sailing is about crusty old sorts," he said. Team Alvimedica is the youngest team in the race and has been dubbed ‘the young guns’. Justin planned a guys’ weekend with his 14-year-old son, Kirby. "I actually had an ulterior motive — I’m on a secret mission to get Kirby excited about sailing again," he said.
Another West Coaster here is Marilyn Cassedy, who grew up in the junior program at San Diego Yacht Club but now lives in Los Angeles and sails in the Martin 242 fleet in Marina del Rey. She had sailed on the Hobart and William Smith College Sailing Team in New York and knew she would see old friends if she came in for the races. They were on the water for the In-Port Race Saturday and had a great view of the windward gate. "The first windward leg was pretty thrilling because of how close all the boats were, and it was great that the wind angle worked out to see the boats fly spinnakers in the harbor," Marilyn said.
Interestingly Spain’s MAPFRE turned out to be the fastest boat in the In-Port Race, leading virtually wire to wire and getting their first In-Port win. They put on an impressive show, regaining the lead in the second leg after being challenged by hometown favorites Team Alvimedica and leading at every mark.
MAPFRE again dominated the start of Leg 7, Newport to Lisbon, on Sunday.
And how did Justin’s secret mission work out? The passionate sailors and Volvo Ocean 65s worked their magic. Kirby said, "After seeing this I think I want to get back into sailing."