Back in October, seven teams of sailors boarded their special racing boats at Alicante in Spain and set off on an epic, 267-day race around the world. The Volvo Ocean Race course takes the teams across four oceans to 11 ports on five continents. When they finish the race, on or around June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden, they will have traveled 38,739 nautical miles.
This week, though, the boats and their crews began reaching Newport, Rhode Island, the end point of the sixth leg of the race. It’s the only US stop in the competition, and the teams will remain in port until May 17. That’s when the Leg 7 begins. Destination: Lisbon, Portugal.
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Here’s how the race works:
The Volvo Ocean Race began in 1973 and at a duration of nine months, it’s “the world’s longest professional sporting event.”
There are seven teams in the competition. Six teams are made up of eight sailors and one onboard reporter. The seventh team, Team SCA, is an all-female crew of 11 sailors and a reporter. Each team has an additional land-based support crew that provides updates and handles any issues that might come up.
All seven teams use the same kind of boat: a 65-foot racing yacht built by Volvo. It has eight sails and has a max speed of 40 knots. The teams compete in nine legs, stopping over for a few days in a different port city at the end of each leg. The legs vary in length — shortest: leg 8, from Lisbon to Lorient, France (647 nautical miles); longest: leg 5, from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajai, Brazil (6,776 nautical miles) — and a different team can win a leg. It’s sort of like the Tour de France, but in boats racing across oceans.
Teams win points based on how they enter port. First in gets one point, last gets seven. There are also in-port competitions for points. Whatever team finishes with the fewest points wins the Volvo Ocean Race trophy. It’s sort of like golf, but with boats racing across oceans.
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The first boat into Newport was Dongfeng Race Team from China. The last one in was Team SCA. (One boat, Team Vestas Wind, ran aground during the second leg and has been out of commission since.) But currently in the lead is Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing with 11 points. Dongfeng is second with 17 points.
The Newport stop gives the sailors and support staff time to rest and make repairs to their boats. But for one team, it’s also a homecoming. Team Alvimedica, the joint US-Turkish boat, has its home port in Newport. Skipper Charlie Enright is from Bristol, about 15 miles to the north. And bowman/boat captain Nick Dana hails from Newport.
“As soon as I see Block Island’s cliffs and then the water tower at Point Judith, I’ll know we’re home,” Dana told the Providence Journal.
Teams head back out on May 17, sailing across the Atlantic Ocean for the home stretch of the race. Dongfeng has a shot at catching Abu Dhabi, but it’s something of a longshot with only three legs left.
SI Kids will have more at the end of the race. Until then, click on the image below to check out a gallery of some great photos from the race so far!
Photos: Armory Ross/Team Alvimedica (top), Volvo Ocean Race (map, boat), Stephan Coppers/Team Brunel/Volvo Ocean Race Team (tipping boat)