Baltimore among 4 cities vying for race

Global competition may stop here again

Yachting

February 27, 1999|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Baltimore has a little less competition in its quest to bring the Volvo Ocean Race, Round the World back to the Inner Harbor -- and possibly Annapolis -- as Boston, New York and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are no longer under consideration.

When the world's top racing yachts circle the globe in 2001 and 2002, they will stop at two U.S. ports, and Baltimore is left to vie with Newport, R.I.; Charleston, S.C.; and Miami, according to race organizers.

In 1998, the race stopped at Fort Lauderdale before coming to Baltimore. It also stopped in Fort Lauderdale in 1994.

"We're very encouraged with the negotiations thus far," said Gregory Barnhill, president of Volvo Ocean Race Chesapeake Inc. and a managing director at BT Alex. Brown Inc. "We're still on the short list. I think our chances are good, but we're not assuming anything at this point."

Barnhill and another local organizer recently traveled to London to meet with Volvo officials.

"We're in discussions right now with Volvo," Barnhill said. "We're discussing the timing platform and details if they were to come here."

An announcement is expected about the same time as the Baltimore Waterfront Festival, April 29 to May 2.

Should Baltimore-Annapolis be selected to play host to the sailing race, the plan locally would be to hold the event as it was in 1998, incorporating the annual festival. Last year, the festival drew more than 400,000 people over seven days. This year, promoters hope to attract 100,000 to the shorter, four-day event.

This year's events will include yacht racing and exhibitions, a display of Olympic-class sailboats, canoes and kayaks, and the chance to meet aspiring Olympians. Also among the attractions planned are sailing adventure films, sailing art and harbor tours.

The Volvo Ocean Race, known as the Whitbread Round the World Race until Volvo took it over in June, has announced only the starting port -- Southampton, England, in September 2001.

All the remaining ports will be named by the end of June, according to Lizzie Green, press officer for Volvo Ocean Race, whose office is near Southampton.

Late last year, a source close to the race said it was unlikely that the double venue stop in Baltimore and Annapolis would occur again, noting that the two stops so close together proved tiring and costly for racers. The boats spent seven days in Baltimore before moving to Annapolis for three days last spring.

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 the expected media attention, one official said.

But Green said it was too early to say definitively how the double venue issue would play out. And, in her opinion, it was not an impossible scenario.

"I think if the Baltimore area is chosen, there will be some involvement with Annapolis as well as Baltimore," Green said. "I don't think you can separate the two."

Local organizers apparently are presenting their bid -- to be submitted in mid-March -- as a dual-city stopover.

Will that hurt the area's chances, if two stops are more costly than one?

"No, I don't think so," Green said. "We all know that Baltimore was an incredibly successful stopover."

The racing yachts that sailed up the Chesapeake Bay in April brought $26.5 million to the state, according to an independent economic-impact study commissioned by Volvo and done by the British firm Sports Marketing Surveys, a marketing research firm specializing in event analysis.

The amount was not far off local officials' prediction of more than $28 million in economic impact.

Pub Date: 2/27/99

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