Newport wins 2015 Volvo Ocean Race
Fresh on the heels of the success of last year’s America’s Cup World Series, Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced this week that the Volvo Ocean Race will make its only North American stopover in Newport in 2015. The around-theworld race begins in Spain next year.
Chafee pointed out that tourism is the third largest sector in the Rhode Island economy, and that it is important to try and grow the industry at every opportunity.
“We naturally want to keep growing our tourism industry here in Rhode Island, and to have this event coming here is very exciting for the hospitality industry and marine trades,” Chafee said. “It extends the Newport tourism season earlier into May. These large-scale sailing events draw impressive numbers of visitors to our state – visitors who make valuable contributions to our economy.”
At a press conference at the State House Tuesday, Chafee was joined by Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, Sen. President Teresa Paiva Weed, House Speaker Gordon Fox, and Newport Mayor Harry Wintrop. Also on hand was Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport. It was Read who spearheaded the effort to bring the Volvo to the area.
“Rhode Island needs events like this to further its image as a tourist destination,” Read said. “Everyone saw the imagery of that NBC broadcast on the Sunday of the America’s Cup World Series in Newport. We have the chance to do it again, and we have to make sure that we work towards getting these events. For the health of the state, the health of the local business community, it’s going to be crucial that this thing works. I’m looking forward to getting it started.”
Sail Newport will have an even bigger role for the Volvo than it did for the ACWS – the organization is the signing authority for the race. Locally, it will have care, custody and control of the event. The nonprofit sailing center will partner with the state and the city of Newport for the event, but will have the ultimate say in decision making.
Several speakers pointed out that the infrastructure improvements to Fort Adams – which were approved by the General Assembly – are a major factor in bringing large events to the area. A portion of improvement money was bud- geted by Chafee, while the balance was approved by voters in a referendum.
A request for $775,000 will be part of the governor’s budget next year. The money will be the state’s contribution to the costs of running the event. The same amount was approved for last year’s America’s Cup regatta – that investment resulted in a $38 million injection for the state’s economy.
Frostad, who participated in the race four times as a sailor, referred to the Volvo as the “Everest” of sailing. He said it is one of the world’s great adventures. The next edition of the race will be sailed in 65-foot one designs capable of reaching speeds of nearly 40 knots. One design means that all of the boats in the regatta are built to the same exact specifications. Also, an all-women’s team will compete for the first time.
The race will start from Alicante, Spain, in October 2014. The first stopover will be in Recife, Brazil. Auckland, New Zealand, will also host the fleet, and the race will finish in Gothenburg, Sweden. Other stopover sites are expected to be named in the next two weeks. Recent editions of the race have covered approximately 39,000 miles with nine or 10 stopovers.
The boats are expected to arrive in the area in May 2015 for a stopover of approximately 11 days. During that time, organizers promise a nonstop series of events on shore, as well as in-port and pro-am races in the bay. While no one was committing to the number of spectators, previous Volvo stopovers have drawn close to a million people on average, albeit in bigger cities.
Frostad said that the idea of coming to a smaller city like Newport was appealing to race organizers.
“Because we go around the world to many different locations, we don’t want them all to be the same,” Frostad said. “We don’t want Newport to be like Rio de Janeiro. We don’t expect it to be. What we like about Newport is that we think we can be an important event in the town and everyone will know we’re in town.”
Tom Touber, the COO of the race, said that the success of last year’s America’s Cup event in Newport had a massive influence on the decision to bring the Volvo to Newport. He said that it proved that Newport was capable of hosting a sailing event of significant size.
“It gives us all the confidence that we can organize a proper sailing race incorporating a lot of local people,” he said.
Also at the press conference was Evan Smith, president of Discover Newport. He said that the announcement was important to the state’s marine industry, as well as the hospitality trade. Smith said the event will have a significant economic impact on the entire hospitality business including hotels, shopping, dining and recreation.
“One of the things that is so exciting is the validation of Newport as a sailing center,” said Smith, a Jamestown resident. “To be able to join together globally with the kinds of cities that Volvo has selected is a real accolade to the city and the state. It’s a great day for Rhode Island.”