Thousands of visitors came to Fort Adams State Park today for the official opening of The Ocean Race Newport. The race village, titled Ocean Live Park, kicked off the nine-day festival with a parade, music, entertainment and a warm welcome from the Ocean State.
Altogether, the Ocean Race Newport’s family-friendly festival is created to celebrate The Ocean Race’s only stopover in North America, the State of Rhode Island, and to inform and inspire ocean health.
Dignitaries who helped celebrate the opening of the event included Sail Newport Executive Director, Brad Read, Representative Marvin Abney, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Director Terry Gray, Newport Mayor Xaykham “Xay” Khamsyvoravong, Michelle Carnevale, 11th Hour Racing vice president of programming and grant program director, and Richard Brisius, the Director of The Ocean Race.
This is the eighth edition of the circumnavigation race to visit American shores, but the second time that an American crew has won a leg of the race into the U.S. when Rhode Island skipper Charlie Enright led his Newport-based 11th Hour Racing Team across the finish line in first place.
The first U.S.-flagged team to win a leg of The Ocean Race that finished in the U.S. was Ken Read’s (Portsmouth, R.I.) Puma Ocean Racing, which won Leg 6, from Brazil to Miami, in the 2011-’12 race.
“Newport is a magnificent town, and Rhode Island a magnificent state,” said Brisius, a past competitor in the race. “We’re thrilled by Rhode Island’s tag line of the Ocean State. You have a truly proud tradition in relation to the ocean. This does not happen easily. I congratulate Sail Newport, Discover Newport, and the entire Newport community for pulling off this incredibly warm and welcoming atmosphere for The Ocean Race family, not the least of which is the creation of this outstanding Ocean Live Park.”
Representative Abney, as Chairman of the House Finance Committee, helped secure state funding for the Newport stopover. A resident of Middletown, RI, Abney settled in the area after retiring from the military and raising his family.
“I want to thank all of the visitors from around the world who are here,” said Abney. “It’s so important to showcase what we have here, not just this ground we’re on, but the entire city of Newport, the entire State of Rhode Island, so welcome,” Abney said.
“It’s not often that you see so many people coming for the same reason, the same purpose. You’re all here to look at these sailors do important things,” Abney continued. “So have a lot of fun, go downtown, and take a lot of pictures, but the most important thing to remember is that this is a coordinated effort from all of us. So, thank you very much, and welcome to Newport.”
Newport Mayor Khamsyvoravong has a connection that extends to the race beyond his role as mayor. He’s personal friends with Enright, a relationship that dates back to their days at Brown University in the 1990’s.
He visited Itajaí, Brazil, for the start of Leg 4 to Newport and had the opportunity to sail with 11th Hour Racing Team in the In-Port Race. Read light-heartedly credited Khamsyvoravong as starting 11th Hour Racing’s winning streak, because he was a guest onboard during In-Port Race in Brazil, and the connection to Newport for the recent leg win.
“Our deep waters and reliable breeze make Newport a wonderful venue, but also work from organizations like Sail Newport,” said Khamsyvoravong. “It’s absolutely extraordinary that one of the greatest sporting events in sailing is hosted and organized by a community boating center. It’s the result of thousands of hours from Brad and his team but also the volunteers who come out to make this possible.”
The Opening Ceremony included a parade led by youth sailors from Sail Newport’s programs carrying the flags of the nations represented in the race, the Navy Band playing the national anthem, and the Newport Artillery Company firing a five-gun salute.
Special guests included the Portuguese Social Club’s Rancho Folclorico Dancers, who performed two traditional Portuguese folk dances.
The Narragansett Indian Tribe, represented by Eleanor, Thawn, Yoyatche, Nkeke and Sherenté Harris, of Charlestown, R.I. performed ritual dances of their tribe’s heritage.
Sherenté Harris, who is Two-Spirit, an Indigenous term used to describe someone with a multi-gender identity, captivated the audience with her passionate speech.
“We are Narragansett,” said Sherenté. “Many moons ago, our people were here as we are today, on this great Narragansett Bay. Taking out our canoes and traveling voyages all along the East Coast. The ocean, our bay, is our home, our life.
“When I look upon the beautiful faces of the people here today, I think of all of our beloved relations,” Sherenté continued. “We are going to share our traditional dances. Our dances are prayers and thanksgiving. We pray for the mighty sailors as they travel on their journey, and we pray to all our beloved relations, not only the two-legged, but the four-legged, the winged, the ‘swimmed’ and our mother earth.”
Later in the day, the Exploration Zone-Presented by BankNewport, was opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony that included Read and Jack Murphy, the CEO of BankNewport. The Exploration Zone-Presented by BankNewport, spans two tents, one featuring sailing, science, technology and agricultural education, and another featuring ocean-inspired art.
“We’re thrilled to be the Presenting Sponsor of the Exploration Zone,” said Murphy. “It goes with our commitment to environmental protections.”
The day concluded with live music featuring “Comanchero,” a Boston-based Americana jam band, on the Ocean State Stage in Fort Adams State Park.
Tomorrow’s highlights include a wing foiling regatta, 1:00-4:00 p.m., and, at 5:00 p.m., the new 11th Hour Racing Film “Shaped by Water,” followed by a concert with American multi-genre singer-songwriter and musician Caroline Jones.
Access to Ocean Live Park is free to all, although parking fees will apply. The park is open tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. This week, Monday through Friday, May 15-19, it is open 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, May 20-21, the park opens at 10:00 a.m. each day. The event closes at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday and at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.
For more information, visit The Ocean Race Newport or The Ocean Race.