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NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — Newport is celebrating — and preparing — as the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race readies to kick off in Spain on Sunday.

The 2017-18 race features seven teams and stops in 12 cities on six continents over eight months, in what is considered offshore sailing’s most prestigious event.

The only North American stopover of the 45,000-nautical-mile race is in sailing-centric Newport, which is scheduled to host from May 8 to May 20. The first leg will take teams from Alicante, Spain, to Lisbon, Portugal.

Four Americans are competing. The U.S.-Danish entry Vestas 11th Hour Racing includes two Brown University graduates at the lead: Skipper Charlie Enright, of Bristol, and Team Director Mark Towill, of Kaneohe, Hawaii, along with Nick Dana, of Newport. Rome Kirby, of Newport, was a late addition to the Dutch entry, Team AkzoNobel, joining on Thursday.

When Newport hosted a stopover in 2015, it drew 130,000 visitors, and it was such a success they expect 150,000 this year, according to Kim Cooper, spokeswoman for host organizer Sail Newport. Cooper said there is a lot of excitement this year about the four Americans, all of whom have a Rhode Island connection.

“We make great sailors in Rhode Island,” she said.

Also driving some of the excitement this year are changes, including women and men sailing on the same boats, and scoring formula changes that give in-port races more points.

The yachts are expected to arrive in Newport from Brazil between May 10 and May 11. In-port racing is scheduled for May 17 to May 19, with the vessels sailing for Cardiff, Wales, on May 20.