Harken Derm

Sail Newport to engage local community in Volvo Ocean Race

Published on April 29th, 2015

The city of Newport is gearing up to be the only North American stopover of the international Volvo Ocean Race, a nine-month, 10-port circumnavigation that local officials say will be another feather in the cap for the former home to the America’s Cup — and a huge boost to the city-by-the-sea’s economy.

“Going to a mecca of sailing will help the race, and it certainly allows us opportunity to show off Rhode Island,” said Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport, a nonprofit center that put together the city’s bid to host the stopover.

The 45,000-mile race got underway in October in Alicante, Spain, and will conclude in Gothenburg, Sweden. Newport’s stopover is scheduled for May 5 through 17.

Newport won out over Baltimore, which hosted the stopover in 2006, largely because of the commitment by Sail Newport and local officials to engage the community in the race, said Tom Touber, chief operating officer for the Volvo Ocean Race.

“This is by far our most important criterion, how much engagement can we find from the local community,” Touber said. “We have a great cooperation with Sail Newport and the government to prepare every single detail, and, of course, we can bank on a lot of history.”

Sail Newport is handling the race village, which will be located in Fort Adams State Park, the official venue for the America’s Cup World Series regatta in 2012. The village will offer entertainment, educational exhibits and an opportunity to board a 22-foot sailboat to try out the sport firsthand.

“The sailing part of it is important, and we can’t wait to receive these sailors, but there’s so much more — kids activities, adult activities,” Read said.

State officials have said the event will generate tourism in Rhode Island and give the state international exposure, similar to the America’s Cup World Series, which drew 65,000 people to Newport and generated more than $50 million in economic activity.

Gov. Gina Raimondo’s budget allocates $775,000 for public safety, sanitation and event logistics. The state is expected to generate significant returns on its investment, a spokeswoman for Raimondo’s office said.

“The Governor believes we have a huge opportunity to showcase Rhode Island as a premier tourist destination, one of the sailing capitals of the world, and a great place to do business,” she said.

Read said the state has a great opportunity with an event like the Volvo Ocean Race.

“We’re a 30-minute drive from anywhere in the state, and we can really build momentum and get things done quickly,” he said.

Evan Smith, president and CEO of Discover Newport, the city’s visitor center, is on board.

Smith is the head of a group of 20 volunteers who are focusing on marketing the race, one of 13 committees dedicated to putting Newport on the map.

“We want to be successful where we think other destinations have fallen short,” Smith said. “This is a new trophy in our case.”

Source: Associated Press

Photos of Newport race village being assembled by Stephen Cloutier.

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