Whitbread redux likely for city Visit to Annapolis might be dropped by Volvo Ocean Race

2 close stops tiring, costly

Maritime festivals

November 05, 1998|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Baltimore is nearly a lock to again play host to what is now called the Volvo Ocean Race, Round the World, but if the world's top racing yachts return in 2002, chances are they won't stop in Annapolis, according to sources close to the event.

The two stops so close together proved tiring and costly for the racers. Each syndicate spent tens of thousands of dollars in logistical costs -- for such things as moving supplies and equipment -- to make the second stop in Annapolis. Baltimore's Inner Harbor would be the preferred location because of its ability to handle crowds and because of intense media attention, one official said.

The racers spent seven days in Baltimore before moving to Annapolis for three days last spring.

"I would be stunned if we didn't come back to Baltimore," the official said.

Racing officials started dropping hints about a return visit even before the boats had pulled out.

A letter to a local race organizer in May from Ian Bailey-Wilmont, chief executive and race director, pronounced the event "undoubtedly the best stopover the Whitbread Round the World Race has ever had." The letter further said, "the success of the stopover will make it very difficult for Volvo not to wish to come back."

Volvo took over the Whitbread Round the World Race in June.

In April, Bailey-Wilmont was quoted as saying: "I'd be very surprised if they [race officials] did not decide to come back. You go where it's good, and it's good here."

Among the cities being considered or that have voiced interest are: Boston; New York; Charleston, S.C.; Newport, R.I.; Miami; and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The race stopped at Fort Lauderdale in 1994 and this year.

"Things are going very well and very positively, but nothing is going to be publicly discussed until year end or the first of the year," said Gregory Barnhill, president of Volvo Ocean Race Chesapeake Inc. and a managing director at BT Alex. Brown Inc. "I am cautiously optimistic."

Volvo officials are saying little. All stopovers will be chosen by mid-1999, with the starting port and perhaps the first couple of stops revealed Jan. 7 at the London Boat Show. News of the other stopovers will trickle out as they are confirmed, said Tom Clifford, director of public relations for Volvo Group North America in New York.

The route for the global race that runs every four years will be roughly the same, Clifford said. But the goal is to increase the number of race boats to about 15 -- with 10 as the minimum and 20 as a maximum goal, he said. Nine boats participated in the 1998 race. The Baltimore region could handle a maximum of 20 boats, local organizers say.

There are likely to be just two North American stopovers, Clifford said. He declined to discuss the likelihood of the Baltimore area seeing a return visit.

There may be more cities coveting the event this time around because of this year's success.

"I think because of what happened here and the publicity they got, it woke everyone up to the race," said Lee Tawney, secretary of Volvo Ocean Race Chesapeake Inc. and assistant to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. "What happened here worked so well that these other cities said, 'What's this?' "

The region is preparing a bid that responds to a list of port requirements. Calls have been received from Melbourne, Australia, and from Miami at the suggestion of race officials, who describe this area as a "benchmark."

The plan locally would be to entertain the event in the same way as this year's, incorporating the annual Baltimore Waterfront Festival. "The notion is that we would try to use the same formula that worked last time," Tawney said.

Volvo Ocean Race Chesapeake Inc. -- the renamed public and private sector group that organized this year's event -- already is working on fund-raising. About $70,000 to $80,000 is needed annually to finance the bidding process, Tawney said.

Local organizers spent $649,000 to put on the 1998 event, and they received $1.8 million through in-kind gifts between June 1994 and June 1998, he said.

Those racing yachts that sailed up the Chesapeake Bay in April brought $26.5 million to the state, according to an independent economic impact study expected to be released in about a week.

The economic impact study was commissioned by Volvo and done by the British firm Sports Marketing Surveys, a marketing research firm specializing in event analysis.

Local officials were not far off in their prediction of more than $28 million in economic impact.

R. Dean Kenderdine, assistant secretary of the division of tourism, film and the arts, said he used as a guide the only remotely comparable analysis the state had done -- a 1990 study of the Preakness Celebration, which reported an economic impact of $19.7 million. He also looked to a more recent study done in Florida, which said the 1994 Whitbread stopover had an economic impact of $28.9 million.

Volvo Ocean Race officials have been traveling the world lately, surveying possible stopover ports. To date, there is no scheduled visit to this region.

"They know what we can do," Tawney said.

Pub Date: 11/05/98

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