High winds and rain threatened to crash the celebration party for the Newport-based 11th Hour Racing team on Friday evening, August 4.

Skipper Charlie Enright posted on social media ahead of the event, encouraging the fans and community to attend: “Don’t let the weather deter you. We don’t.”

Enright and the sailing team know about weather and weathering adversity and adverse conditions. They raced their 60-foot IMOCA-class sailboat 35,000 nautical miles (more than 40,000 miles) over six months around the world in the iconic Ocean Race. When a competitor’s boat collided with them in the last leg of the race, the shore team rallied to get the boat back in the water in time to finish.

The sailors and the 11th Hour Racing team are the first Americans to bring home the trophy in the 50-year history of the race. The celebration was even sweeter for the team, whose home port is Newport and whose skipper hails from Bristol and grew up sailing the waters of the Narragansett Bay.

For the Friday evening celebration, the entire crew, including the sailors, shore team, support staff and family and friends joined with community members and sailing fans on the lawn of the Friends Meeting House in downtown Newport. It was an opportunity for those gathered to meet and chat with the sailors, take a photo with the trophy, pick up 11th Hour memorabilia, all with the backdrop of live music and lively conversation.

To kick off the event, the team gathered on a stage to the applause and raised phones of fans making photos. Enright hoisted the trophy, as he’s done more than a few times in the numerous press appearances after the team’s epic win. Each sailor answered questions, then mingled with partygoers and posed for selfies. The sailors admitted they would be ready to put the media events and coverage behind them and move into their post-race lives.

Newport Mayor Xay Khamsyvoravong offered the team an official proclamation, naming August 4, 2023, 11th Hour Racing Day.

Philanthropist and co-founder of 11th Hour Racing Wendy Schmidt offered her congratulations and highlighted the organization’s commitment to raising awareness of issues and research focussed on ocean health.

“Today we are honoring the sailors who had raced on Malama [the sailboat] but also the incredible shore crew, who were their lifeline, their backbone and even their salvation in the darkest hours,” Schmidt said.

“You have been exceptional athletes, sports people, business people, technicians, citizen scientists, educators, advocates and friends. And I really do believe together, we are only just beginning to change the world,” Schmidt said, concluding her remarks.

Diane Sullivan, a real estate agent who lives on a boat in Warwick, connected strongly with the team’s mission of focussing on ocean health.

"I like the fact that this team had the purpose of protecting the ocean, because if the ocean dies, we are all going to die,” Sullivan said. “I like the fact that the 11th Hour Ocean Racing team had something more about it than just winning a trophy. It was about the sustainability of the planet.”

There were plenty of young people in attendance, many were big fans of Skipper Charlie Enright. Beckett Melville, 8, of Newport, offered Enright a picture he’d drawn for the 11th Hour Racing team. He came with his family to see Charlie. 

“He’s nice. And he’s smart and he’s really good at sailing,” Melville said.  “And then because I’m a big fan of the 11th Hour Racing team.”

Jack Gaynor, who is a sailor and rising senior at Barrington High School, came to congratulate Enright and shake his hand.

“I’ve been following the Ocean Race and I want to do it someday,” Gaynor said “I want to sail around the world in the Ocean Race.”

Maya Mills, of Tiverton, came to be a part of history.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is the first time it’s happened. So it’s very exciting for the whole of Rhode Island.”

As the sun set and the crowds started to thin, sailor Francesca Clapcich was still mingling in the crowd, posing for photos with young girl fans and answering lots of questions.

She recognizes her new calling as a role model and an example for future generations.

“I think it’s an honor, and, at the same time, it’s a responsibility,” Clapcich said. “Because you are trying to be like a role model for the new generation…to make sure the young ones understand that, you know, it’s hard work and everybody needs to get skilled but at the same time, we’re all even. The ocean doesn’t really see the difference between men and women. It’s just a big ocean.”