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New London — Leading a parade of military and tall ships, the Coast Guard barque Eagle sailed into the city today with nearly all of its large white sails set and filled with the wind.
The parade of sail kicked off the OpSail events in New London. The last time the barque sailed into its homeport was in 2000, when New London also hosted Operation Sail, but fewer sails were set at that time.
Capt. Eric Jones, commanding officer of the Eagle, said the conditions for sailing were the best of any port this summer. "It worked out perfectly," he said.
The Eagle was followed by the USS Carter Hall, a navy dock landing ship, and a line of more than 20 other vessels. The parade was delayed for about an hour because an anchor chain became tangled around Eagle's anchor in the morning and the crew had to unfoul it.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and several other politicians and military officers were on board for the trip from Niantic to Fort Trumbull.
"It's gorgeous," Malloy said, looking out at the boats trailing in Eagle's wake. "To be on this ship, to see what's going on and the excitement that has been generated is just amazing."
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, was put to work hauling lines to set the sails. A sailor congratulated him for doing an "excellent" job.
Courtney turned to the three cadets who were also working the line, telling them, "I couldn't have done it without you guys. I could feel the help."
Arriving in New London, boats in the harbor exchanged horn blasts in a friendly greeting. Music played ashore.
"This is a tremendous day," said Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio. "It's the culmination of the efforts of so many people who worked together to make this such a success. It's a great honor and opportunity for the city."