Challenges and Triumphs of Volvo Ocean Race – Miami

Published on May 23rd, 2012

slide2The route around the world for the Volvo Ocean Race is determined by the 10 international ports that host the fleet during the event. The 2011-12 edition arrived in Miami on May 9 from Brazil, re-starting their next leg to Portugal on May 20.

Providing a debrief from the host committee Volvo Ocean Race Miami, Inc. is Wendy Kamilar…

For more than two years, VORMiami, Inc. had planned for a big event and big turnout for the big boats to arrive in Miami. The local Miami team formed as a charitable foundation and is ALL VOLUNTEERS. Our mission is to support water based sports, activities and education with any monies left after the big event. For those of us who worked tirelessly to bring the race to Miami we are proud to have put on a great event, built a fantastic village, filled it with great exhibits, food, entertainment, beautiful docks, and showcased Miami and Sailing to the U.S. and the world.

A little History…
In 2002 the Volvo Ocean Race made its last stop in Miami. The 2002 Village was on a 3 acre lot behind the AA Arena. There were 4 large tents and of course the boats. When the race left town it did so with little fanfare and several hundred thousand dollars in unpaid bills. Our goals were simple: to build a great village, run great races, give people a reason to come, tell them we’re here and pay our bills.

The challenges were large. Logistics came first. There is only one place with deep enough draft, enough room for the village and open access to the public for the boats to go – Bicentennial Park. The park has no infrastructure. No electrical power, only 1 fire hydrant for water, plenty of uneven unusable surfaces, and no docks. And the boats had to pass through a federal channel, impassable when cruise ships were in port. Permits, immigration, environmental issues, Federal, state and local authorities all coming together. We had to drive pilings to attach the temporary docks, get special permits for the temporary structures in a hurricane zone, bring in generators and water and fuel and thousands of pounds of mulch.

The second challenge was the racing, which was the easiest to tackle with the help of Biscayne Bay and Coral Reef Yacht Clubs. These two organizations stepped up as host clubs, staffed and administered the racing needs of the Youth Team Racing and Volvo Ocean Race finish, Practice race, Pro-Am races, In-Port Race and Leg Restart. With over 130 local RC volunteers coordinating with the 20 VOR staff and countless press and spectator boat captains it was a flawless execution.

Next challenge was to give people a reason to come. Volvo Ocean Race comes with a traveling set of pavilions and activities; a bounce house, grinding challenge, 3D Cinema, sailing simulator, cultural showcases, movie dome, shops, boats to sail and lots more. Our challenge was to add the entertainment and local activation part. We signed a deal with Sony Entertainment to put on 3-4 major headliner concerts in the Village. The names of artist being talked about was amazing. But after 7 months of unsuccessfully trying to obtain sponsors to pay for the concerts Sony had to drop out in January 2012.

If you build it how do people know about it to come? Our marketing was divided into before/outreach and during local reach. The before concentrated on awareness and travel to Miami. The Miami Conventions and Visitors Bureau distributed our promotional materials at all their travel shows all through Latin America and Europe. Our volunteers worked our booths at several large boat shows and we came out to lots of civic, professional and Yacht clubs’ lunches and dinners to give presentations to promote the stopover. We sent flyers and stickers over the summer to many large regattas and clubs in the Northeast and West coast. Last May we held a 1 year out press event with the maiden voyage of Puma to Miami that generated great TV and print press and kicked off our monthly newsletter. We placed internet banner ads all over the Southeast for 4 months with links to our website for more information. We publicized and held free “watch parties” for the leg restarts. And we worked with Groupon (a major sponsor) to reach beyond the sailing community to offer spectator boat and VIP experiences to broaden the appeal.

Close to and during the stopover we marketed the event using 6 radio stations, 100 Street Pole Banners, 125 Bus Benches, 30,000 Guide books in Miami Beach Hotels, 100,000 guide books inserted in Miami Magazine, 100,000 flyers distributed by street teams in all Metro-Rail stations, major shopping areas, Marlins and Heat Playoff Games, Posters and Flyers distributed in many local marine supply stores and marinas, 12 digital directional flashing signs on major roadways, an aerial banner flying over Miami Beach, two branded downtown trolley’s and 40 large banners in Miami Airport.

The last and most important goal and biggest challenge was how to pay for it all. Differentiating ourselves from all the other ports in the race, this is not a government funded project. We are a volunteer charitable organization and had to rely solely on sponsorships, grants and donations. And we are thrilled to say we can and will pay all our bills. The biggest heroes are the civic organizations who gave us grant monies like the Miami Downtown Development Authority, Tourist Development Council, PortMiami, Florida Sports Foundation and Florida Inland Navigation District. And to the corporations who give us amazing support in-kind like Bacardi, Peronni, LaCroix Water, Marquis Residences, and Genting Resort World. Perhaps the biggest disappointment are the companies that regularly support sports and sailing all over the US in sponsorship who would not step up. You know who they are. We contacted them all several times and they all told us NO.

All in all, the 2012 stopover village was fantastic. We filled 21 acres of Bicentennial Park with 17 pavilions, exhibits, interactive games and rides. We had live bands and DJ’s, jugglers, Miami Heat and Miami Marlins Dancers, Beach Volleyball, Junkanoo Bands, High School Marching Bands, Marine and Weather Forecasting Seminars, School kids by the bus load, Custom Antique Cars, the Great Steamboat Race, Opti National Champ Team Racing and of course all 6 Volvo Open 70’s at our docks. We had media coverage around the world. Many local and National magazines ran stories promoting the race and Miami Stopover. The Miami Herald ran a story on the race’s progress every two weeks since October and we made the cover story twice during the event. We had local TV coverage continuously, Fox Sports carried the In-Port race live.

We grew from a core group of 5 to a team of 60 plus local people and 120 Volvo Ocean Race Staff working around the clock to pull this thing off. There were over 400 volunteers manning the village over the two weeks plus 130 race committee volunteers working on the water. The crowds may have been less than we would have hoped for but we pulled it off, met our goals and have legacy to build upon for the future.

Watching the home team Puma be the first to arrive off the shores of Miami Beach.
Two antique 1895 steamboats racing, lots of yellow school busses arrive at the village, six beautiful Volvo Open 70’s at the docks and smiles on everyone’s faces in the village

Low Points…
Largest Rainfall in May for Miami since 1901.
Empty docks on May 22nd.
PAUL TODD/Volvo Ocean Race

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