Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Newport - Daydreaming

ACWS Newport - Friday, June 29, 2012
Newport, Rhode Island

Friday was a big day.  Racing, photographing, and that night was a gala event.  
Everyone seemed to be falling into the routine of the event.  I liked to arrive at Starbucks by 8:30 am in order to get my latte and have time to walk over to catch the ferry across Narragansett Bay.  There was only one Starbucks in downtown Newport, so I saw familiar faces in the coffee line each morning - friends from San Francisco, members of various teams, members of the media.  We all seemed to be on the same schedule.  I was also no longer the only one on the 9:00 am ferry from Newport over to Fort Adams.  There were about six or eight of us showing up for the early ferry, all sporting various colored AC badges around our necks depending on whether we were media, volunteers, part of the organizing committee, etc.  We had the basic water cooler conversations that you would have in any office or during a morning commute - chatting about our work days which that morning mostly consisted of the rumors and stories around the Emirates Team New Zealand flip the day before.  Yes - this was our office chatter.
Like the Emirates Team New Zealand boat, I too was back on the water for the days racing.  Friday I was on one of the windward mark boats.  The mark boats head out very early - about an hour before the other photo boats, so this made for another long day on the water, but I love it out there. Our location was down past Fort Adams State Park and near the Eisenhower House and Hammersmith Farm.  The Eisenhower House is an historic late 19th century home that has served as the residence for the Commandant of Fort Adams as well as President Dwight D. Eisenhower, for whom the house is named.  Ike liked golf, and the house’s location was near the Newport Country Club golf course, so this became the president’s Summer White House, although the house is now painted yellow.  Hammersmith Farm which is located next door was the childhood home to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and was the location for her wedding reception when she married John F. Kennedy.  This was his Summer White House during his presidency.  At one time it was open to the public, but has gone back to being a private residence.
With time on my hands out on the water before the racing, I couldn’t help but daydream a bit about what it must have been like during that gilded age when homes like these were built.  Wealthy southern planters looking to escape the heat began building summer cottages along Bellevue Avenue around the mid-nineteenth century.  By the turn of the 20th century, wealthy families such as the Vanderbilts, Astors and Wideners had constructed the largest of these “cottages” namely the Breakers and Miramar.  These families would come to Newport for a brief social season to their grand, gilded mansions and as I looked at the white tents on the lawns, I couldn’t help but think of how Edith Wharton (one of my favorite authors) described the Newport social scene in her novel The Age of Innocence.

But back to reality and the day’s racing during which I snapped lots of pictures and enjoyed what could be described as the best seat in the house on that mark boat.  You just can’t get any closer to the action on the water than on a mark boat.  
My day on the water was followed by a quick turn around back on land as I was heading to another summer "cottage" for dinner that evening.  Friday night was the 18th America’s Cup Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Marble House and I was on the guest list.  I changed from my sailing clothes into my blue sequined evening dress, then met my host family in the back yard for a quick update on my adventures thus far.  They insisted on driving me to the event - I think they wanted to check it out as well.  Marble House was built between 1888 and 1892 for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt as their summer "cottage."  It was a social and architectural landmark that set the pace for Newport's transformation from a quiet summer colony of wooden houses to the legendary resort of opulent stone palaces.  A fitting place to hold this induction ceremony, which was co-hosted by Yves Carcelle, Chairman & CEO of Louis Vuitton and Dyer Jones, Chairman of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame Selection Committee.  As I entered, I was handed a table card informing me that I was seated at table no. 1.  I thought to myself that this was either a huge mistake or that table no. 1 must be next to the kitchen.  I glided through the grand entryway, passing men in tux’s and women in full length ball gowns sipping Moët & Chandon Imperial straight from mini bottles through little golden flutes affixed to the top.  Had I really snapped back to reality from earlier in the day - as I felt as though my Edith Wharton daydream was coming to life.   We mixed and mingled on the back patio before retiring to the grand white tent in the back yard, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean where dinner was served.  Table no. 1 was indeed right in the front and I was seated with members of the America’s Cup international jury, one of the dignitaries who was introducing an inductee that evening, and a few others. 
The best photographers were there to capture images from the event.  I did get a few curious looks from them as they saw me through their lens.  When one of the videographers was scanning the scene and when he got to my table he actually stopped and poked his head out from behind his big camera just to give me a quick wink and a nod.  Then back he went to filming.  It was as if I was living a double life and had just been caught and they were all quietly cheering for me from behind their lenses.  
Dinner, inductions, dancing.  It was a magical, golden evening that I will not soon forget. 

For more photos from today, just click HERE

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had a great time in Newport! It was going back "home' for me.