2011-10-13 / News

Tall ships to return to Narragansett Bay after five-year hiatus


THE TALL SHIP, EUROPA THE TALL SHIP, EUROPA The tall ships are coming. After a five-year absence from the area, the tall ships will return to local waters next summer. Organizers expect 15 to 20 boats to take part in the Ocean State Tall Ships Festival from July 6-9, 2012.

In a press conference timed to coincide with the presence of the tall ship Lynx in Jamestown, Richard M. McAuliffe, chairman of the Ocean State Tall Ships board of directors, announced the festival at the Newport Yachting Center.

About 100 local business owners, as well as state Sen. Louis P. DiPalma, state Rep. J. Russell Jackson, Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, and Keith Stokes, the executive director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, were in attendance.

The festival is expected to provide a much-needed economic boost for the area. The last time the tall ships were here, in 2007, approximately 200,000 people attended, delivering an economic impact of over $20 million for the Rhode Island economy.

Next summer’s tall ships event will follow closely on the heels of the America’s Cup World Series which is expected to result in a $72 million economic windfall for the state.

According to Erin Donovan, executive director of Ocean State Tall Ships, “Ships will arrive in port on the evening of July 5, and then they’ll be open for boarding and tours on July 6, 7 and 8.”

The final day of the festival, July 9, will feature a Parade of Sail, which will take place prior the ships heading for their next port, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The ships will race from port to port in a competition known as the Tall Ships Challenge. The racing is organized by Tall Ships America, a nonprofit organization focused on youth education, leadership development, and the preservation of the maritime heritage of North America.

The challenge rotates between the East Coast, the West Coast and the Great Lakes. Next year’s East Coast Challenge will begin in Savannah, Ga., before moving on to Charleston, S.C., Greenport, N.Y., Newport, and Halifax.

“We’re hoping for anywhere from six to 10 class A vessels, which are the larger ones,” Donovan said. “We’ll also get class C and class D, so we’re expecting anywhere from 15 to 20 vessels in total.”

According to Sail Training International, there are four classes of tall ships. Class A boats are any square-rigged vessel more than 40 meters in overall length. Class B ships are traditionally rigged vessels (ketches, yawls and schooners) with an overall length of less than 40 meters with a waterline length of at least 9.14 meters.

Class C ships are modern-rigged vessels with an overall length of less than 40 meters and with a waterline length of at least 9.14 meters not carrying spinnaker-like sails. Class D is the same as class C except with spinnaker-like sails.

The festival will be held along the Newport waterfront, stretching from the Newport Shipyard to the International Yacht Restoration School facility with a number of different festival-related activities in between. These will include entertainment, T-shirt and souvenir tents, and food and beverage vendors.

Prospective vendors can visit the Ocean State Tall Ships website to make their interest known. Eventually requests for proposals for various business sectors will be issued and sent to the businesses that have expressed interest.

“We really want to get the community involved,” Donovan said. “People who are interested in volunteering are more than welcome to be part of the whole event planning process, and then the actual event when it is here. It is a huge orchestration of a ton of events and people.” People interested in volunteering can also visit the Ocean State Tall Ships website.

While the ships are in port they will be open for tours. The crews will be on board to answer questions. There will be some workshops and other educational opportunities, and sail training will be provided for Rhode Island students.

“We’re hoping to partner with two vessels to get students out for a sailing experience,” Donovan added. “We really want to get Rhode Island kids involved and excited about these kinds of programs.”

For the most part, the vessels will remain in port during their stay due to the challenging logistics of organizing day sails for ships of their size. The organizers also want to give the operators of existing local day sails to take advantage of the economic opportunities that will result from increased tourism in the area during the festival.

“It’s not just a Newport event, it’s a Rhode Island event,” said Donovan. “We’re small enough that we can all reap the benefits of it.”

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