Several members of the Volvo Ocean Race executive team are in the United States this week, making the rounds and visiting the two North American ports that have lodged bids: Baltimore, Maryland, and Newport, Rhode Island.
From Baltimore …
Baltimore hosted the Volvo Ocean Race during the 2001-2002 and 2005-2006 editions, as well as back in 1997-1998 when the race was known as the Whitbread Round the World Race. In 2005-2006, the Race attracted more than 350,000 people to the Inner Harbor, and had an estimated economic impact of $40 million. For the 2014-2015 edition, the projected cost of bringing the race to Baltimore is around $2.5 million, with an estimated economic impact of $50 million.
Sailing conglomerate Ocean Racing USA and marketing firm BPHI3 are leading the Baltimore effort. “I really believe we’re going to win this thing,” said Rob Housman, an executive director of Ocean Racing USA, the private-sector bidder. “The success of Sailabration last summer shows Baltimore knows how to do fantastic water events.”
It should be noted that the Baltimore bid is a private-sector one, meaning that private organizers are in charge of organizing a bid and, potentially, hosting a stopover. However, the bid has the support of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. “It’s very important to the state. The Volvo Ocean Race is a huge attraction,” O’Malley said. “It’s important jobs. It’s important for economic development, for Maryland’s long-term tourism sector because there are people who might visit us for the Volvo Ocean Race and then come back again and again.”
Mayor Rawlings-Blake said that the city of Baltimore would allow free use of the Inner Harbor for the Volvo Ocean Race, with nominal fees paid to the city for police patrols, trash collection, and other essential services.
… to Newport …
Several hundred miles north, the sailing town of Newport is equally excited about a potential Volvo Ocean Race stopover. Leading the charge in Rhode Island is Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport. “We have a long and impressive history of hosting major sailing events. We have proven that we are pretty darn good at this stuff,” Read said. “Considering our proximity to the ocean and record of serving as a start point for trans-Atlantic races, I think it’s a very good fit.”
… but not Annapolis.
Once again, the self-professed “Sailing capital of the world,” Annapolis, Maryland, passed up a bid this year. According to Mayor Josh Cohen, the city was approached in February 2012 about potentially lodging a bid (Annapolis had split the 2005-2006 stopover with Baltimore; they passed up bidding for the 2011-2012 edition). After seeking “input from several sailing, business and hospitality leaders in our community. There was a clear consensus that due to changes in how the Volvo Ocean Race was organized and financed, it would not be a benefit to serve as a host city,” Cohen said.
Cohen refers to the Volvo Ocean Race’s $1 million “rights fee,” as the deciding factor in the city’s choice not to spearhead a bid. My math might be a little rusty, but the city of Annapolis continues to let me down. The local government has spent nearly $1 million on the latest round of refurbishments to a local building, the Market House, which has been plagued by lack of tenancy and constant construction delays. These issues are repeated basically on an annual basis, and the city continues to throw good money after bad into the Market House.
But yet, when faced with an estimated $50 million injection into the local economy, the city declines, citing a $1 million “rights fee?” It sounds like someone needs to get their priorities straight.
But anyway, we wish Baltimore and Newport luck with their respective bids. A full race route is scheduled to be released later in the month, with intermittent announcements carrying on until February.
[With quotes from the Baltimore Sun (article linked). Photos by: Taylor Michie / Racing Winds Media.]