Leighton O'ConnorAs the Publisher of Canadian Yachting Magazine I sometimes get to go behind the scenes and see how the boating community works and sometimes get to see how boats are built and races run. Just recently I had the pleasure of attending the 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Newport Rhode Island as a guest of Volvo Penta of the Americas. Our hosts put on a great display of hospitality for their dealer network, suppliers and a few lucky journalists. Their fearless leader Ron Huibers, President of Volvo Penta of the Americas, a Canadian that grew up sailing on Lake Huron out of Goderich Ontario put  everybody in a great mood for the festivities.

Photo: Photographer Sharon Green and Canadian Yachting Publisher Greg Nicoll with that May issue of Canadian Yachting at the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Newport Rhode Island.
 Photo credit: Leighton O'Connor

We spent a lot of time in the Volvo Ocean Race Village where there many displays and interactive presentations.. The great news is the crowds came, 125,000 spectators roamed the village throughout the week, meeting the racers and lining the shores for the in-port racing that took place on the Friday and Saturday and the start  of the trans-Atlantic crossing on Sunday. In the media centre I met up with Sharon Green, the photographer that we featured in the May issue of Canadian Yachting Magazine who was down covering the race. We also got a special tour of the Netherland boat entry: Brunel.  I was surprised to see how dark it was down below on this 65 foot racing boat because the colour of carbon fibre is black and when we asked why it wasn't painted,  Magnus Gedda our guide and Volvo-Penta engineer reminded us how heavy a bucket of paint weights and these boats carried no extra weight.

In my position as publisher I have attended several meetings and conferences on the state of the sport of sailing and what we should do to make it grow and be more inclusive. One of the difficult things about our sport is that it happens out there on the water and in the case of the Volvo Ocean Race it happens far from shore and sometimes remote parts of the world. The organizers of the VOR have done an amazing job by embedding a media contributor on each of the seven boats. It is their job using all the latest electronic technology and communication equipment to make the race come alive  in real time for a worldwide audience. It was great to see the onboard media crew shooting pictures of the spectators that lined the shore. I guess after all the time out in the middle of the ocean with nothing to shoot  except a few grotty sailors and continuous miles of barren ocean, the hordes of cheering fans caught their attention and they aimed their cameras at us.

 Volvo Ocean Stopover

Canadian Ron Huibers, President of Volvo Penta of the Americas, presenting the trophy to the winning boat in the 2015 Volvo Ocean Race Newport Stopover In Port Race to Team Mapfre. The Spanish entrant under Skipper Iker Martinez took an early lead and held it throughout the whole race.

Most times for most people the Volvo Ocean Race only takes place on a monitor on their desk, but in the “village” you got to meet the racers firsthand and ask questions and get a feel for what makes these people take on such a gruelling adventure. One of the athletes that I spent some time with was Dee Caffari from the SCA boat. The SCA team consists of all women from several countries that are working together in cramped quarters and under difficult circumstances but are fighting right along with their male counterparts. Currently at the time of this writing are in sixth position as they make their way from Newport to Lisbon.

Dee CaffariDee has an incredible sailing resume which includes the Vendée Globe, the Global Challenge, the Barcelona World Race and four transatlantic races. She is the only woman to have sailed solo around the world in both directions (east about and west about) as well as being the only female to have sailed around the world three times, nonstop. Dee also holds the female crewed monohull Round Britain and Ireland speed record, a record she established in June 2009, with her crewmate Sam Davies. Even with all these credentials and experience Dee explained to a large group of aspiring young girls who gathered around her that she had to compete for her spot on the boat and go through a very long and extensive training program once she was selected to the team.

Dee Caffari of Team SCA at the Newport stop-over of the Volvo Ocean meeting and talking to the crowds.
Photo Greg Nicoll

The young girls that surrounded Dee could not get enough of her and the questions kept coming about her adventures and she smiled and gave them all their answers and even asked a number of questions herself to the girls. One can sit in front of the monitor and watch the race but being there seeing the boats and interacting with not an electronic module but a real life hero figures like Dee will inspire and motivate young sailors to keep going even when the going gets tough. Our sport needs more heroes like Dee. I also said that I would plug her autobiography: Against The Flow, now out in paperback.

Earlier when asked about the race Dee said, “I am most looking forward to being back on a racetrack around the world. The best part of this project is working with a great bunch of girls and all working together towards the same goal.”

We need to celebrate our sailors more!

Greg Nicoll
Publisher
Canadian Yachting Magazine

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