Photo by Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

They said it was a long time coming. Some 42 years of this incredible race have passed, and never have the boats been to Newport.

Well, now that’s changed. “It just feels right,” smiles Stopover Director Brad Read, who has spent years working on the campaign to bring the Race to these parts.

“I think the Race has really cemented its place in Rhode Island, because the people here have really embraced it.”It’s been just under two weeks, but what an amazing stopover. From the neck-and-neck battle between Dongfeng and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, to MAPFRE’s In-Port Race win and a fantastic show of sailing as the boats left to Lisbon, it’s been all go on the water.

And it’s been pretty special off it, too. “I had high expectations,” adds Brad.

“One of the first meetings we had with the media, I said I expected more than 100,000 people through the village, and my colleagues kicked me under the table! But this has blown away even my expectations.”

Before today started, the official number stood at over 105,000 visitors. That’s four times the population of this town.

As we chat, the orange boat of Team Alvimedica docks out to chants of ‘Alvi! Alvi!’. Charlie Enright, a hero in this community, waves, face beaming.

“I know the pressure they’ve been under since they’ve been here,” says Brad, gesturing towards the youngest team in the Race.”I’m just so happy for them, because they’ve had such a great reaction and support, from 4am when they showed up to noon when they leave.

He pauses. “I’m really proud of them, and I think they’re going to win this leg.”

So has he had a chance to fully appreciate the huge success of this stopover yet, I ask? He laughs. “I’ve not even been to the Dome yet! I’ve been to the cross section a few times.

“But I find great pleasure in watching other people enjoy it – I love it. I love the show, I love everything. The arrivals night, I walked along the wall of Fort Adams all by myself. There were six or seven thousand people in the Village.

“That was the first time it really hit me how good a job my team did. I know they did a great job the whole time, but that was like, ‘wow’ – results.

“We’d finally started winning the game.”

Text by Jonno Turner

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