Whitbread race announcement slated for October

September 11, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Officials from the Whitbread Round the World Race plan to announce early next month that they will bring the prestigious yacht race to Maryland in 1998.

Andrew McCall, of the Whitbread office in Southampton, England, said yesterday that he is trying to arrange to send a race representative to Annapolis on Oct. 6 to time the announcement with the start of the 25th annual U.S. Sailboat Show.

The date of the announcement may have to be changed because Gov. William Donald Schaefer expects to be out of town that day, said Dean Kenderdine, a Maryland Department of Tourism and Promotion official who is working to coordinate the announcement.

Even though they haven't officially announced the course for the 1997-1998 race, Whitbread representatives for months have ,X made no secret of their intention to come to Maryland.

In May, Ian Bailey-Willmot, the race director, said he was impressed by Baltimore's location in a large metropolitan market and its proximity to the Washington bureaus of major news organizations. In addition, Baltimore offers a deep harbor and good sailing facilities. "I'm ecstatic," said Miguel Ferrer-Roig, Annapolis' former economic development director who worked to bring the race to Annapolis. "I'm so proud of what we put together to make this happen."

He said Whitbread officials were impressed by the commitment the elected officials showed, and he praised the sailing community for rallying behind the effort.

Mr. Ferrer, who now works for world-renowned boat designer Bruce Farr, said the Whitbread is expected to bring $15 million to $25 million to the state's economy.

With the Whitbread secured, local sailors are concentrating on raising money to build a boat to enter in the race, he said.

Although it is not well-known in this country, the Whitbread is one of the biggest sporting events in the world. During the nine months of the race, sailors travel 33,000 miles, enduring blistering equatorial sun and the threat of icebergs.

The contestants will sail from Southampton in September 1997 and up the Chesapeake Bay in April 1998. After stopping in Baltimore and Annapolis, the contestants will sail the final leg of the race back to England.

Whitbread officials had wanted to add a race stop in the United States to increase publicity for the event in this country. Previously, the only U.S. stop in the race had been Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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