The glitzy affair was held in a marquee at the Museum of Yachting at the harbour end of Fort Adams State Park, and those that attended we treated to a spectacular view of the lights of the city and Newport Bridge.
There were many highlights to the evening, but one of the best was a satellite hook up to Derek HATFIELD who is still at sea sailing Leg 5. The line was clear and when Hatfield spoke the place erupted. Derek may not have been there in person, but he was most definitely there in spirit. Derek's email that followed summed up his feelings. "Last night during the awards ceremony in Newport, I was introduced to the attendees via sat phone hook up,"
he wrote. "I must say it was very moving for me to hear the loud applause when I was introduced. Today, I am motivated more than ever to race as fast as possible to the finish line."
Should Hatfield make it safely to Newport, he will hold onto third place overall in Class 2.
Kojiro SHIRAISHI won the Harry Mitchell Trophy for the fastest 40-footer in the race, which was presented by Harry's, widow Dianne. Harry Mitchell was a fixture of the early Around Alone races, but sadly never realized his dream of a solo circumnavigation. On his final attempt he was lost at sea in a huge storm west of Cape Horn. I was coincidentally in Australia at the time he left and was one of the last people to see him sail over the horizon. Winning the trophy named in his honour is a true privilege. The Raymarine communications awards were presented to Emma RICHARDS and Brad VAN LIEW for the way they communicated their stories to the public and the Dry Creek Vineyards 24-hour distance records were presented to Brad in Class 2 and Bernard STAMM in Class One.
The most poignant part of the evening was when the skippers each took a turn at the microphone to thank their sponsors and supporter. The talks were loaded with emotion and sentiment, as well as genuine thanks. Fortunately Simone BIANCHETTI lent some levity with his long and hilarious speech about his future plans. Seems the Italian skipper is considering joining the clergy where he will be able to make "special" accommodation for the wives of all the skippers while their husbands are at sea. "Father Simon will take care of all their needs,"
he said. His other thought was to become the harbourmaster in Newport. His sponsor, Tiscali, has other plans for him, and Simone will soon be returning to Italy for a summer sailing in the Med.
The climax of the evening was awarding the first place prizes. Brad VAN LIEW won the Shuten Doji trophy presented by three-time Around Alone veteran Minoru SAITO and Bernard STAMM won the Around Alone trophy. The silver plate has been inscribed with all the names of every Around Alone finisher since the first race and holds huge significance for the winner. STAMM graciously accepted the prize and held it aloft while bags of Raymarine balloons came tumbling down.
This Around Alone is nearly over. We will continue to bring you Derek HATFIELD'S updates and position until he arrives safely in Newport. If you are feeling a little starved for Around Alone stories and images and live anywhere near Newport, Rhode Island, I encourage you to visit the Museum of Yachting. There is a stunning exhibit on display featuring the photography of world-renowned photographer Billy Black. Billy has covered all of the races and his magic eye has been able to capture the soul and spirit of the race. A 40-minute slide show brings to life the people and personalities of the 2002/03 edition of the race. It's well worth a visit and a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon.