Volvo Ocean Race in Rhode Island draws big crowds

The weekend drew a combined 28,712 visitors.

The opening weekend of the Volvo Ocean Race Newport Stopover in Rhode Island — the race’s only U.S. stop — drew more than 28,000 visitors to the race village at Fort Adams State Park.

The weekend drew a combined 28,712 visitors. Since the race village opened on May 5, a total of 48,360 people have visited.

"These numbers are beyond our expectations and even more impressive since the race crews had the weekend off," Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport and director of the stopover, said in a statement. "We're looking forward to similarly large crowds at the end of this week, when we'll have four consecutive days of racing on Narragansett Bay, capped by the start of Leg 7 on Sunday."

The Newport stopover is the only North American stop of the global race and the first time the race has visited Newport, R.I.

The past weekend's crowds were attributable, in part, to Saturday's opening of the Exploration Zone, a marine-themed educational experience with 22 interactive exhibits. Sunday's activities included a celebration of Mother's Day, including a special yoga session. Other activities for kids included bumper boats, a bubble soccer tournament and face painting.

Visitors could also see the Volvo Ocean 65 race boats, both in the water and in a unique cross-section onshore. Guests also toured Rhode Island's official educational vessel, the Oliver Hazard Perry.

The focus of the stopover return to the water this week while many shoreside family activities continue. The MetLife Combat Wounded and Injured Veterans Regatta was being held today, with 14 veterans crewing for skippers of the Volvo race.

On Thursday, the Volvo race crews will return to the water for a day of practice racing and the first Pro-Am Race.

On Friday, the crews will participate in two more Pro-Am races. The Team Vestas Wind In-Port Race Newport is slated for 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Volvo Ocean Race Leg 7 start to Portugal is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, with a dock-out show, a parade and a local ceremonial send-off, starting at noon.