Newport hosts countless sailing regattas and championships every year, but the granddaddy of them all is The Ocean Race. Dubbed “the Everest of professional sailing” by Race Director Phil Lawrence, this celebrated around-the-world team race makes its only North American stop right here in Newport this May.
Held just once every three years, this spectacular event pits some of the greatest sailors in the world against each other in an often-brutal contest that spans from January through June. The racers departed Alicante, Spain, in January 2023 and will finish in June in Genova, Italy. All told they will stop in 9 cities around the world.
The start of the 14th edition of The Ocean Race will follow the Reyes holiday period in Spain and sees the foiling IMOCA fleet departing on a 32,000 nautical mile (60,000 km) race around the world.
The first leg is a 1,900 nautical mile sprint from Alicante to Cabo Verde, the first time the Race has stopped at the African archipelago. Historically, the fleet has sailed past the islands as they head south down the Atlantic. Whilst in Cabo Verde, The Ocean Race will take part in its famed Ocean Week, with a focus on local and international sustainability issues.
Leg 2 will start on 25 January and see the fleet racing across the equator, south to Cape Town, the 12th time the Race has stopped in the southern tip of Africa, making it the most visited stopover in this edition of the event. This will also be the first of three ‘haul-out’ stops, where the boats will be lifted from the water for maintenance.
Next up is a record-breaking leg – the longest racing distance in the 50-year history of the event – a 12,750 nautical mile, one-month marathon to Itajaí, Brazil.
In the finest tradition of The Ocean Race, this leg takes the IMOCA sailors down to the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties of the Southern Ocean. Antarctica is to the right and the fleet will need to pass all three great southern Capes – the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin, and Cape Horn – to port, without stopping, for the first time.
There will be another extended, haul-out stopover in Itajaí, Brazil, following this epic southern leg before racing resumes heading north, through the doldrums, across the equator, and up to Newport, Rhode Island, on the east coast of the United States.
From there, the Race returns to Europe, with a transatlantic leg to Aarhus, Denmark, followed by a Fly-By of Kiel, Germany en route to a stop in The Hague, The Netherlands.
Then, it’s the final offshore leg – the Grand Finale – to Genova, Italy, for a Mediterranean finish to the race.
If you’ve ever wondered what these world-class sailors really feel like, after a long burn, you’re in luck! This year’s race will also see more unfiltered social media interaction with the crews.
Photo by Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race
The stopover in Newport runs from May 13-May 21, 2023, and the public celebration will be back at Fort Adams State Park featuring entertainment, food, children’s activities, team compounds, and a chance to view the race boats up close and in person. You may even get a chance to rub elbows with the world’s top sailors as they launch their massive boats in Narragansett Bay for informal training days.
The last time the Volvo Ocean Race came to Newport, in the spring of 2018, nearly 130,000 fans swarmed Newport to enjoy race festivities. More than half of those fans came to the Ocean State from other U.S. states and internationally, according to The Ocean Race. “The economic impact of the 2018 stopover on Rhode Island is estimated at over $47 million,” according to a study commissioned by Sail Newport and reported here.
All teams will participate in an in-port race on May 20, with the transatlantic leg of the race launching on May 21. It will be a great time for sailing fans to plan a trip to Newport to be part of the action. While you’re in town, check out some of our favorite hidden gems in Newport and stop by for a sail with us! We will be running special spectating sails and charters.
Lead photo credit Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race.
Are you interested in getting a front-row seat to this unique experience? Please click here to view more information on our spectator cruises. We will be offering public sails aboard our schooner Aquidneck and private charters for 2-6 guests aboard our 34′ O’Day, Starlight.