2011-09-08 / News

America’s Cup event expected to spark the island’s economy

BY KEN SHANE

The 34th competition for the America’s Cup – the oldest trophy in sports – will take place on San Francisco Bay in September 2013. For the first time in history, the America’s Cup Event Authority has scheduled a series of six preliminary events leading up to the finals. These events are known as the America’s Cup World Series.

This time around, the America’s Cup is being sailed in highperformance catamarans. In the World Series events, the teams will use the brand-new AC45 catamarans before moving up to AC72s for the racing in San Francisco. The first World Series event was held two weeks ago in Cascais, Portugal. The next event begins in Plymouth, England, on Sept. 10, and the concluding regatta this year will be in San Diego, starting on Nov. 12.

There are three more World Series events scheduled for 2012, including one that will have a direct impact on the economy of Jamestown. On Aug. 12, the America’s Cup Event Authority announced that Newport would play host to the final World Series event next summer. The fleet of catamarans will be in Newport from June 23, 2012, to July 1, 2012. The locations of the two remaining World Series events are expected to be announced before October.

Jamestown resident Scott Ferguson, who is the rig designer for the America’s Cup defender Oracle Racing, said, “I’m very excited that Newport was awarded the event. Guys like Brad Read of Sail Newport [and Jamestowner] Evan Smith have worked hard to get these high profile events into Newport. A place with so much America’s Cup and Grand Prix sailing history is a perfect fit and a stunning place to sail.”

The arrival of the America’s Cup World Series in Newport is expected to have a dramatic economic impact throughout the area, including Jamestown.

Jill Hubbard, president of the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce, reacted to the announcement. “We realize the this could have a wonderful impact on our community,” she said. “We have a wonderful sailing history here and it will be a pleasure to watch the racing and then go out to dinner in Jamestown.”

She continued, “I suspect that there will also be additional boat traffic and spectators during this race, and we all look forward to meeting new people and making new friends. We look forward to meeting with the Newport Chamber of Commerce and the race organizers to see how Jamestown can contribute.”

In the days when the America’s Cup Finals were held regularly in Newport, spectators had to be on a boat several miles out to take in the action. The new catamarans sail so close to shore that spectators are expected to line a number of excellent vantage points in Newport and Jamestown to watch the races.

John Recca, the owner of the Narragansett Cafe and Jamestown Fish, was also pleased to hear the news. “I think the America’s Cup World Series is an unbelievable opportunity for Jamestown businesses and all of Jamestown. Newport is famous for its sailing history. We, as Jamestowners, have a unique opportunity to benefit from the huge influx of both professional sailors and spectators into Newport County.”

According to Recca, even small events like the music festivals in Newport drive sales into Jamestown. He added that the America’s Cup World Series races will have an even greater impact on the local merchants.

“Witness just the influx of people for the folk and jazz fests, these will be peanuts when compared to the America’s Cup World Series,” Recca said. “The media buildup and hype will be unprecedented – national and world press exposure at the highest levels. Hopefully the state will have the wherewithal to contribute to the buildup which will be necessary to sustain this event, and perhaps to justify the return of the America’s Cup Finals in the near future.”

Newport was in competition with San Francisco for the America’s Cup Finals late last year, but the state of Rhode Island failed to agree to the required investment necessary to upgrade the infrastructure of Fort Adams in preparation for the event, an investment that many say would have been repaid many times over with jobs and by money pumped into the local economy by visitors.

“It will have an impact on the island. It’s going to be very exciting,” said Bill Munger of Conanicut Marine Services. “I go back to the old days when the races were in 12 meters and you couldn’t watch unless you got in a boat and went seven miles offshore. This event will be right in the bay.”

Munger said that the races are thrilling to watch, and Conanicut Island will be a great place for spectators to view the competition from.

“These boats move,” Munger said. “It’s going to be exciting for the public to watch. So that will mean that there are going to be people in Jamestown to see the action. Obviously, if they’re around they’re going to want something to eat.”

Munger expects the influx of boats to the area to be good for his own business as well. “I would expect it to have a very positive impact,” he said. “There will be boats around, boats breaking down, and bumping into each other. We fix them, and that’s what keeps us alive.”

Gov. Lincoln Chafee also mentioned the importance that such an event will have on Rhode Island’s struggling economy.

“Newport and Rhode Island have strong historical ties to the America’s Cup, dating back to 1930,” Chafee said. “Narragansett Bay, one of our state’s most spectacular assets, provides a perfect natural venue, and the ongoing infrastructure improvements at Fort Adams make Newport the ideal host for the final stop of the [America’s Cup] World Series. This exciting event will be a tremendous boost for the Rhode Island economy and continues the relationship between Newport and the America’s Cup.”

Richard Worth, the chairman of the America’s Cup Event Authority, agreed that bringing some aspect of the race back to its birthplace was important.

“Newport is the cradle of the America’s Cup sailing, so we’re very pleased to bring the [America’s Cup] World Series to the city that first exposed the cup to the world,” he said. “We are building upon that rich history through this new professional circuit to accelerate the global appeal of the America’s Cup.”

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