Mayor Khamsyvoravong. Contributed photo.

By Sail Newport

With the passing of Point Nemo, the most remote point on the planet, on Tuesday and the rounding of Cape Horn, at the southern tip of the Americas, set for this weekend, the sailors in The Ocean Race are getting closer to their arrival in Newport, R.I.

WATCH: Today’s Race Report

One such calendar is that of Newport Mayor Xaykham Khamsyvoravong, who intends to greet the international sailors as both the mayor of the City-by-the-Sea and a sailing enthusiast.

Mayor Khamsyvoravong is expected to be among the dignitaries in attendance at the Leg 4 start in Itajaí, Brazil, on Apr. 23, and at the finish in Newport, sometime between May 8-11. The 38-year-old first-term mayor – who goes by Xay (pronounced “sigh”), a shortened version of his first name – is an avid sailor, a past champion team-racer who frostbites in Newport Harbor.

Mayor Khamsyvoravong. Contributed photo.

“We’re still sorting through the logistics of our trip to Brazil, but I’m excited to demonstrate to The Ocean Race that Newport is committed to the race and to send the racers off for their leg to Newport,” says Xay. “The Ocean Race has long been one of my favorite events to follow and visit. To play a more prominent role as mayor of the host community of the only North American stopover is one of my ultimate honors.”

The Ocean Race is a multi-leg, crewed circumnavigation race first sailed in 1973-’74. Often described as the world’s longest and toughest professional sporting event, this year is the 14th edition of the race and it totals 32,000 nautical miles (36,825 statute miles). Along with the America’s Cup and the Olympic Regatta, The Ocean Race is regarded as one of sailing’s “Big Three” events.

Newport has hosted the North American stopover twice before, in 2015 and ’18. Xay, a native Rhode Islander who led a 15-year career as a finance and public service professional before being elected mayor, remembers the previous stopovers and the great foot traffic that the race attracted. Over the two previous events, more than 247,000 people visited the race village at Fort Adams State Park. He noted the nearly “$50 million in economic impact” from the 2015 event for the Newport community and the State of Rhode Island.

“Newport is a cultural destination and that is what sets it apart from being just another pretty coastal town. Events like The Ocean Race give it that cultural depth,” says Xay.

The Ocean Race 2022-23 – 18 March 2023, Leg 3: 11th Hour Racing Team’s Mālama cruises in the deep south of the Pacific Ocean. (Credit: Amory Ross/11th Hour Racing/The Ocean Race)

“Sailing is in the DNA of Newport. It’s arguably the sailing capital of the U.S. and it’s an incredibly important part of the city’s profile. The Ocean Race is a unique sporting event. More than an athletic feat it integrates an important environmental message, which is the health of our oceans. It’s the type of event that Newport values hosting, one with an athletic component and an environmental message,” Xay says.

The Newport stopover will be co-hosted by the State of Rhode Island, Sail Newport, the non-profit community sailing center, and 11th Hour Racing, the global sustainability organization that is focused on restoring the health of the planet’s oceans.

“I was on the advisory board for Sail Newport before being elected mayor, so I know that the caliber of Sail Newport’s staff is an asset to the city and the state,” says Xay. “This race is complex – it’s not an easy event to host. So, when you consider that our community sailing center is the lead organizer, and that they’ve hosted one of the most successful stopovers for going on three editions, it’s a remarkable testament to their skill and the power of partnership in our community.

“Further, we’re fortunate to have a global organization like 11th Hour Racing here in Newport. It’s what we stand for, a responsibility to the oceans,” Xay says. “I’m excited and especially proud that one of Newport’s own, Amory Ross, is serving as 11th Hour Racing Team’s onboard reporter, leading the media effort to share this message.”

11th Hour Racing’s message of sustainability of the world’s oceans will be a central theme of Live Ocean Park, the name of the race village at Fort Adams State Park. Ocean Live Park will be open May 13-21, and admission is free. There will be interactive exhibits highlighting sailing, marine life, coastal environment, climate solutions, restoration, and blue technology, with learning activities for all ages. The Ocean Race Newport Stopover will showcase the intersection of sailing and sustainability.

“The race village will be incredibly dynamic and will provide visitors with exposure to what sailing and the health of our seas is about,” says Xay. “It’s going to offer interactive opportunities that have a high educational benefit in addition to displaying sailboats at the cutting-edge of technology in the sport.”

For more information visit The Ocean Race Newport website or The Ocean Race website.

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