Volvo Ocean Race: Passion On and Off the Water

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Newport, R.I. – It’s impossible not to be moved by the sight of Dongfeng Race Team, winner of the Volvo Ocean Race’s Leg 6 Itajai to Newport, emerging from the darkness.

Media boats and well wishers buzzed around the fleet leader as she entered Newport harbor, the culmination of 35,000 nautical miles at sea.

dongfeng wins leg 6 of the volvo ocean race!

dongfeng wins leg 6 of the volvo ocean race! photo: kara hugglestone

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.

dongfeng tackling steep and angry seas

dongfeng tackling steep and angry seas, photo: ainhoa sanchez / volvo ocean race

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.

charles caudrelier skipper of dongfeng race team

dongfeng race team skipper charles caudrelier, photo: xaume olleros / volvo ocean race

“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.”

dongfeng and abu dhabi, first and second into newport

abu dhabi made dongfeng work all the way for the win, photo: ainhoa sanchez / volvo ocean race

abu dhabi ocean racing, second into newport

second into newport abu dhabi ocean racing, photo: ian roman / volvo ocean race

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.

Dutch challengers Team Brunel, skippered by Bouwe Bekking, finished just over 55 minutes after Dongfeng to claim the final podium spot following yet another closely-fought leg.

volvo ocean race fans, newport, ri

a crowd of 7,000 greeted volvo ocean racers, photo: amalia infante / volvo ocean race

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.

alvimedica arrives newport in the volvo ocean race

alvimedia arrives newport, photo: billie weiss / volvo ocean race

“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.

team alvimedica skipper charlie enright

‘it’s good to be home,’ said team alvimedica skipper charlie enright, photo: ainhoa aanchez / volvo ocean race

“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.

team alvimedica fans tori and megan gimple

tori and megan gimple have alvimedica team spirit, tori right, megan left, photo: kara hugglestone

'alvi-cures'! fan support for team alvimedica

tori and megan gimple sport ‘alvi-cures’ – photo: tori gimple

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!

team alvimedica themed cupcakes

alvimedica themed cupcakes, photo: tori gimple

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.


locals kara sterns and mike tarta came out to welcome the racers, photo: kara hugglestone

Locals Kara Stearns and Mike Tarta also come out to support their hometown team. They are avid sailors who sail J/22s out of Sail Newport Sailing Center.

team sca fans cheer them in

team sca fans cheer them in, photo: kara hugglestone

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.

pierette richard cheers on team sca

pierette richard of new brunswick, canada is inspired by team sca, photo: kara hugglestone

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!”

young team sca fans in newport

young sca supporters… recently moved to newport, this family is exploring sailing, photo: kara hugglestone

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.

dongfeng's kevin escoffier inspects the leech line on the MH0

trusted teamwork… kevin escoffier inspects the leech line, photo: sam greenfield

dongfeng's eric peron welcomed at the pontoon

dongfeng’s eric peron welcomed at the pontoon, photo: billie weiss / volvo ocean race

team sca's carolijn brouwer and her son kyle

team sca’s carolijn brouwer and her son kyle, photo: leighton o’connor

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.

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