Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Newport - Like a kid in a candy store

ACWS Newport - Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Newport, Rhode Island 

I like to arrive at these events early so I have time to enjoy the host city and the venue before the actual event.  Unfortunately, the weather here has not completely cooperated as Monday was overcast and rainy most of the day so my thoughts of strolling along the Cliff Walk and seeing the mansions melted in the drizzle.  Tuesday was very nice, with just a couple of brief showers and the forecast for the rest of the week is looking really good.  However, as the week moves on, my free time becomes less and less as I focus on the event.
The inclement weather has not had an impact on the enthusiasm in Newport.  This entire town is a buzz over this event.  The return of America’s Cup sailing to Newport, although in catamarans and not 12 meters, is being treated as a homecoming.  As I read the local papers like Newport This Week and the Sunday insert that my hosts had saved for me, I noticed that there are parties and events all over town. Come experience America’s Cup at The Deck Restaurant & Bar; America’s Cup World Series Daily Breakfast Reception Wednesday through Sunday at the Onne Van Der Wal Photography Gallery; and then there is an entire special event schedule for Moet & Chandon parties, all open to the public which include mixers, sunset parties, a “Bubble Bash” (no - I will not be finding out what that means) and lawn viewing parties during the weekend’s racing schedule.  And this is just scratching the surface of events being held outside of the AC Village at Fort Adams.  Ocean talks, movie screenings, press conferences, give-a-ways.  I was overwhelmed with the number of options available.  
With so many options, I decided that during these lay days that I needed to choose wisely.  In the special section from last Sunday's paper there was an article which asked each of the skippers four questions, one of which was “On the rare chance you find yourself with some free time in Newport, how do you plan to spend it?”  The answer from both the ORACLE Team USA skippers was to check out the Candy Store.  The Candy Store is a restaurant located in the Clarke Cooke House which is said to be the quintessential Newport experience.  AC Contenders such as Ted Turner and Dennis Conner  have spent time there and it has long been ground zero for the Newport sailing crowd.  There are several dining options within the Clarke Cooke House and I actually found a great seat at the Sky Bar overlooking Bannister’s Wharf where I had the option of the innovative cuisine from each restaurant's menu, including the Candy Store.  The food was great, and I spotted several team members on the various levels of the place.  This was definitely the place to see and be seen in town and was worth checking out.  Tuesday night at a local pub, I treated myself to lobster pizza for dinner.  It was fabulous and I think each bite was more divine than the last.  Lobster pizza - who knew!
Tuesday morning was the “Meet the Skippers” public press conference on the main stage at the AC Village in Fort Adams.  Youth sailors were invited and the kids were there en mass from area yacht clubs.  The highlight of my day was seeing how excited these kids were to see and meet the skippers.  They all waited patiently during the Governor’s opening remarks and questions from the press for that moment when they might just get a team hat or better yet, an autograph from one of the skippers.  The best part of the press conference came at the end.  A photo op was planned with the skippers and the kids.  But the skippers were on a stage that stood about 7 feet high, much taller than the kids lingering below.  A few kids who had lined up for the photo turned around longingly gazing up at the skippers and stage.   Loick Peyron of Energy Team was the first to help a kid onto the stage and then all the kids were begging to get up.  Max Sirena from Luna Rossa just reached down with two hands and seemed to be plucking kids from the crowd onto the stage with his amazing strength.  Chris Draper also from Luna Rossa followed suit.  These kids had the biggest grins on the their faces as they stood on the stage next to these skippers.  After the photo op and before leaving the stage, Terry Hutchinson of Artemis waited so he could talk to some of the kids, immediately kneeling down to their level.  Yes, these men are truly the heroes of this sport.  As Nathan Outteridge of Team Korea and Jimmy Spithill of ORACLE Team USA left the stage, they were swarmed by kids wanting autographs.  Both skippers stayed, signed life vests or whatever the kids had, posed for pictures and answered questions.  Such a small gesture from these guys that will make a huge impression on these kids.  Well done.
That afternoon was the first official practice day, with the teams as well as the race committee out on the water.  This was a good practice day for me as well, figuring out the best back drops, the iconic scenes for photos, and to meet a new group of photographers here in New England.  Tonight some friends are arriving in town and I am thrilled to have them here so we can share this adventure together.  The excitement level around town is definitely on the rise. 

To view more pictures from today, just click HERE

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