The 13 yachts participating in the Around Alone race left yesterday racing to New York in the non scoring Newport International Boat Show Prologue Race.
At precisely 4pm the Governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Almond, fired the start cannon and the yachts crossed the start line off Fort Adams and sailed out of Newport Harbor. On the water a variety of spectator craft jostled for position to get the best look at these spectacular sailboats. It was an interesting juxtaposition to see the traditional varnished woodwork of some of the spectator craft alongside the colorful hulls of the Around Alone yachts.
Graham Dalton sailing Hexagon was first to cross the start line and treated a gathering of spectators standing on land to a spectacular site as he sailed within feet of the shoreline. The steep cliffs and manicured lawns dropped sharply into deep water allowing Dalton to scream past at 14 knots. Unfortunately he found a private hole in the wind allowing the other yachts to catch up. Garnier sailed by Patrick de Radigues seized the moment and took the lead, and late in the afternoon when the yachts were a mere silhouette on the horizon, Garnier was still out front.
The most impressive performance of the day was Spirit of Canada. Derek Hatfield must have been delighted to find himself up with the leaders sailing well ahead of the rest of his class. He held onto his lead for the first few miles until Brad van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America powered past. Despite the different size boats Spirit of Canada was hanging in there leaving the other two forty footers in his wake.
The forecast is for the wind to settle into the southwest providing headwinds for the boats, an uncomfortable point of sail for these Open designs. Luckily the predicted seas left over from Hurricane Gustav had settled down and dinner on board might be a reasonable affair. It's certain that the night is going to be a spectacular one for all the sailors.
The first boats are expected to cross the finish line off lower Manhattan by noon tomorrow with the prize giving in New York slated for tomorrow evening.