My sister has yet to forgive me for erasing the videotape of her gymnastics meet when we were kids. I needed to make room for the America’s Cup coverage when it aired back in the days of 12 Metres and VHS tapes. The Cup was the most exciting thing happening in sailing and although I was unable to attend the races, watching the action on TV provided a sense that I was there. In my opinion, it was certainly more interesting than a floor routine and space on those tapes was at a premium.

I watched every tack and gybe, listened to the commentary, and paused and rewound dozens of times. Oh, what I wouldn’t have given to have been there in person. And I doubt the gymnastics meet would have been watched more than once. She’ll get over it…some day…maybe.

For the kids that have no idea what a VHS tape even is (There’s an app for that stuff nowadays, and at the very least gigabyte upon gigabyte of storage.), this is not a problem, nor is a lack of accessibility to the sport. Young sailing enthusiasts today are encouraged to attend grand prix, international and professional events in our sport – and increasingly invited to even participate.

I am equally enthused that these young sailors can have a chance to meet the sport’s  top talent, and the parallel events for juniors (the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, the Volvo Ocean Race Academy, and several Junior Olympic Sailing Festivals around the country, to name just a few) are outstanding. There are many ‘what I wouldn’t give’ moments when I hear about kids racing aboard Class40 boats, sailing on high speed cats, offshore racers, and foiling this and that. What I wouldn’t give to have been able to do that when my back was strong and my enthusiasm stronger. Of course little of the technology existed back then, but to have had the opportunity to participate in the Little America’s Cup or sail aboard a 12 Metre would have been equally thrilling to a kid in the late 1970s and early ‘80s as a ride aboard a Volvo Ocean 65 or foiling cat in 2015.

The Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 stopover in Newport this month is a great opportunity to mingle with some of the world’s finest offshore sailors, who are using some of the best ocean racing technology in one of the world’s most grueling, exciting and closely contested races.  I am certain that there will be plenty of adults taking in the sights and sounds at the Race Village at Fort Adams State Park, but moreover, I expect a flock of junior sailors will be there, enjoying the lineup of activities and opportunities.

To name a few – with activities ranging from the minnows, right on up to the sharks – there will be a variety of exhibits at the Race Village, which opens on Tuesday, May 5. The Exploration Zone opens on May 9, with more than 20 interactive exhibits on marine life, sailing, ocean conservation, wind, water and weather experiences, and marine technology. In order to get a true handle on what organizers have worked so hard to create for visitors, you have to spend some time on the official stopover website, And to help navigate the stopover, we have tips at How to Volvo at the Newport Stopover.

Other Race Village attractions include the Team Zone, with opportunities to visit the sailors and shore crews at their team base; the Activity Zone, featuring a Volvo Ocean 65 Cross Section that visitors can crawl inside to get an idea what life at sea with eight other guys or girls might be like; the Exhibition Zone, where you can meet the sailors and shore crews over a cup of coffee at the Sailors’ Terrace; the Volvo Pavilion, a chance to experience the future of cars and trucks; and the Musto Official Race Store, of course, where you can outfit your crew with some new  gear.

I think you may regret skipping this stopover. Even if you can’t make it to the main race days, plan a trip to Newport to walk the park, check out the boats and activities and show your support of the event. Best of all, admission to the Race Village is free!

There is great excitement surrounding this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race and it’s easy to see why. I hope you have the same sense of urgency about getting up to Newport as I. This is one event that I will not settle for witnessing on a screen…but just in case, I will try to get my sister to DVR it for me.

See you on the water.

Chris Gill

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