A hall of fame is set for sailing

Sport great, ESPN commentator Jobson part of group planning Annapolis facility

December 22, 2005|By ANNIE LINSKEY | ANNIE LINSKEY,SUN REPORTER

There is video footage taken when oneAustralia cracked apart and sank during the America's Cup race in 1995. There are national awards presented yearly to top sailors at fancy banquets. There is even a machine that simulates the experience of sailing - without the user ever getting in the water.

The sport of sailing has no shortage of drama, history or gadgetry, but until yesterday when Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced that a Sailing Hall of Fame would be established in Annapolis, the sport had no single place to tell its full story.

"It will inspire sailors and get the youth out there and preserve the history of sailing," said Gary Jobson, an Annapolis-based sailing commentator for ESPN who has been trying to create a sailing hall of fame for years. "It will provide an international sailing landmark for sailing enthusiasts."

Jobson added that the Hall of Fame would cement Annapolis' reputation as a sailing capital. Newport, R.I. - another city that often boasts of its sailing - is home to the tennis hall of fame, Jobson noted.

Jobson, who sailed alongside Ted Turner on Courageous when they won the America's Cup in 1977 and has been an outspoken advocate for the sport, was also given the honorary title Admiral of the Chesapeake Bay by Ehrlich at yesterday's event. Jobson is the 17th sailor to be given the title.

While the details for the Sailing Hall of Fame - and what will be in it - are being hammered out, organizers said yesterday that they hope it will be a repository for all things sailing.

"This has opportunity written all over it," said Janet C. Baxter, the president of U.S. Sailing, an organization that governs the sport. "It is the opportunity to showcase the sport."

In remarks at the announcement, Ehrlich stressed the tourism potential of a new hall.

"We appreciate the sport," he said. "As political leaders, we appreciate the importance of the [boating] industry and the jobs and the dollars. ... It is a beautiful day to be governor."

He added: "Visitors will come and spend dollars and go home - which is perfect."

The America's Cup Hall of Fame at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, R.I., attracts 10,000 to 15,000 visitors a year, said Norene Rickson, a librarian at the museum. Mystic Seaport, a sprawling sailing center in Connecticut, attracts about 300,000 visitors a year, said Peter Glankoff, a spokesman.

If negotiations go as planned, the National Sailing Hall of Fame will be housed in a squat, two-story building at the end of City Dock that is the headquarters for the Department of Natural Resources Police. Currently, 26 police officers work out of the six offices there.

Organizers had long coveted the DNR building, which is on the waterfront.

"We'll have the opportunity to develop a permanent dock," said L.B. "Buck" Buchanan, president of the National Sailing Hall of Fame and Museum Inc., a nonprofit group formed last year to support efforts to establish a hall.

Buchanan and Jobson said they hope the Sailing Hall of Fame will secure exclusive use of the building, but, for now at least, the state is talking only about "co-locating" the hall and the DNR police in the same space. The city of Annapolis, the state of Maryland and the National Sailing Hall of Fame signed a memorandum of understanding to this effect Dec. 2.

Organizers pledged to have some Hall of Fame presence in Annapolis by April 19, when the Volvo Ocean Race is scheduled to begin its stopover in Maryland. Jobson said he expected it would take a year or two before the final hall is complete.

Now, however, the Hall of Fame organizers are focused on raising funds for the project. Jobson said he received $81,000 from private businesses and clubs yesterday.

But Jobson estimated the hall would need to raise a total of $2 million to refurbish the DNR building. Buchanan said twice that amount would probably be needed.

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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