2012-04-19 / News

Preparations in full throttle for America’s Cup World Series

Committee briefs media on progress, gives tour of Fort Adams and other hot spots
BY KEN SHANE

More than 50 writers from local and regional media outlets turned out for a breakfast sponsored by the state’s America’s Cup World Series Host Committee last week. The event took place at the Ocean- Cliff in Newport and was hosted by Brad Read, the committee’s chairman.

Evan Smith of Jamestown is the executive director of Discover Newport, formerly known as the Newport and Bristol County Convention and Visitors Bureau. He is also chairman of the marketing and public relations subcommittee of the host panel, the group that has primary responsibility for planning the event. According to Smith, location played a major role in determining where to hold the media breakfast.

“The property is located right on the race course,” he said. “We wanted people to be able to look out on the water and see right where these boats are going to be racing. Also, it’s close to Fort Adams and we wanted to be able to go down to Fort Adams to see all the infrastructure improvements.”

According to Read, recent changes to the racing schedule will have little or no effect on planning for the event. The first weekend of practice racing – June 23-24 – has been eliminated and replaced with unstructured practice for the teams. Activities at Fort Adams, which will include an “activity zone” and a youth challenge regatta, will still go forward that weekend, but there will be no admission charge. Under the new schedule, there will be practice racing on June 27 before racing begins in earnest the next day. Racing continues through July 1.

The media event on April 11 was timed to coincide with the first racing day for the America’s Cup World Series in Naples, Italy. Attendees were treated to live race footage via a YouTube link that was projected on to a large screen, while they sipped espresso and dined on Italian pastries. Race commentary was provided by online announcers including the legendary sailor Gary Jobson, with occasional interjections from Read.

The breakfast was followed by a tour of Fort Adams, which will be the home base for the America’s Cup World Series, to inspect recent improvements to the fort. The tour was led by Janet Coit, director of the state Department of Environmental Management, Keith Stokes, executive director of the state Economic Development Corporation, and Paul Harden, executive director of America’s Cup Rhode Island 2012. The assembled press got a look at new moorings and docks, improved electrical service, renovations to the interior of the fort, and other upgrades.

According to Stokes, hospitality and tourism is a significant industry cluster that benefits the whole state. Sailing is a significant marine trade, and both of them are coming together this summer for the ACWS.

“NBC is going to have a live broadcast of the final day, showing aerials of Jamestown and Newport,” Stokes said. “It only brings to a larger worldwide audience that this is a great place to visit, to invest and to be a part of. We couldn’t afford this type of ad purchase for a national and international market. It’s showcasing the best of Jamestown and Newport.”

On the short trip from Ocean- Cliff to Fort Adams, Coit spoke about DEM plans for Fort Wetherill in Jamestown during the event. She said her department is working closely with the town leaders on how to use proper signage and manage traffic flow.

“Fort Wetherill will be open to spectators,” she said. “The town has promised to help us to make sure that once it is filled to capacity, we get the word out and try not to have a massive traffic jam in town.”

Coit said that there has been good conversations with Jamestown leaders. “No one really knows how many people will be coming to Fort Wetherill or Fort Adams,” she said, “so we’re planning for the worst-case scenario and hoping for the best.”

Also on hand for the tour was Susan Maffei Plowden of Jamestown, who is the venue manager of Fort Adams for the America’s Cup Event Authority, the international organization that has overall responsibility for all America’s Cup events and activities. Although she has her hands full as she works to get the venue ready, she is optimistic that everything will run smoothly.

“Everything is good,” Plowden said of the preparations. “The DEM side of things is moving along with all the infrastructure improvements. On the event side, I’m busy with the tent guys, and bleachers, and caterers, and all that. The pressure is on. We’ve got a lot to do, but I’m hoping we’re in pretty good shape.”

The morning concluded with a bus tour of Newport where Stokes and Harden pointed out potential parking fields from which spectators will be shuttled to Fort Adams. There was also a stop at Perotti Park, which will be the hub for boat traffic. From there, boaters will be ferried to the fort.

“The importance of the event for all of us working on the host committee was to get the media excited about what’s coming,” said Smith. “I think there’s a general kind of unknown about what’s coming, and I think today was absolutely a smashing hit to tell people how exciting this is, what’s coming to Rhode Island, to get ready for it, and pumped up and excited for it.”

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