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  • Coffee and Conversation 10 a.m. - Noon Charlestown
  • Nature Cruise 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Westerly
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    Bradford resident Frank Williams speaks to the Westerly Town Council on Monday night concerning the use of the Bradford Preserve as a lacrosse field. | (Jill Connor / The Westerly Sun)

    State hopes to attract more international sailing events

    Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee has named a 21-member Sailing Events Commission to identify and attract more internationally recognized sailing and marine events to Rhode Island, building on Newport’s success hosting the America’s Cup World Series in the summer of 2012 and being selected as the only U.S. port for the Volvo Ocean Race in 2015.

    One of the major questions the commission will examine is whether Fort Adams State Park in Newport, with its developing sailing infrastructure, could serve as a venue for selecting and serving U.S. Olympic sailors during the trials leading up to the competitions that will take place in Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Olympics.

    “We will look at the Olympics and a host of other yachting events and opportunities that would have an overwhelmingly positive effect on the Rhode Island economy,” said Evan Smith, president and CEO of Discover Newport, the regional visitors bureau. He is member of the new commission that recently held its first organizing meeting at the Herreshoff Sailing Museum in Bristol.

    Michael Keyworth, former longtime president of the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association, was chosen as the chairman. Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport, the supervising authority for the Volvo race American layover, also is a member, along with representatives of local yacht clubs, including the New York Yacht Club, the Ida Lewis Yacht Club in Newport and the Conanicut Yacht Club in Jamestown. Also serving are representatives of U.S. Sailing, the state Department of Environmental Management and the state Commerce Corporation, as well as eight members of the public.

    “With a diverse, multitalented committee like this, I think we can be a successful competitor for many national and international events,” Smith said.

    Joe Dias, DEM’s chief of planning and development, serves on the committee.

    “There is no Olympic sailing base in the U.S. like those that exist in other countries,” Dias said. “The governor would like Newport and the state to serve as the base.”

    Read said Oracle — the team that won the America’s Cup races in San Francisco in 2013 and in Valencia, Spain, in 2010 — has reached out to Newport about being a host site for upcoming America’s Cup events. The next America’s Cup race will take place in 2017, he said.

    “There will be World Series event again, a challenger selection series and the actual America’s Cup races,” Read said. “There will be a bidding process for all those events. We said we want to be part of that process.”

    There were some “issues” in San Francisco, Read said, so Oracle will be considering other host sites besides San Francisco for all the events.

    DEM recently opened bids for the construction of a new 240-foot pier at Fort Adams State Park and a $4.4 million contract will be awarded to Reagan Construction Corp. of Middletown, Dias said. The company is owned by William Reagan and has built many docks and piers in the region, including those at Perrotti Park and the new Ann Street Pier.

    “The contract includes dredging from the Alofsin Pier to the new pier so that we have at least a 19-foot draft for the Volvo boats,” Dias said.

    The price is more than originally estimated, but the pier has to be strong enough to be the home dock of the new Oliver Hazard Perry Tall Ship that is under construction, as well as for the water taxis that will be loading and unloading passengers there, Dias said. There also will be pump-out stations on the pier.

    “One of the engineers said the pier will be more like a bridge than a pier,” Dias said. “It will be strong enough for a fuel truck to drive out on it. We are not planning on that, but that’s how strong it will be.”

    Newport Mayor Harry Winthrop welcomed the formation of the committee, which includes a representative from the city of Newport.

    “We have the best sailing in the U.S. and are known as the sailing capital of the world,” he said. “Clearly, we are qualified to host Olympic trials and training, as well as other large events.”

    “Rhode Island is home to some of the best boat designers and builders in the world,” Chafee said in a statement. “Key infrastructure improvements have provided critical support for championship sailing and enhanced large-scale marine events in the state. Through the commission, we now have an opportunity to capitalize on our place as a leading international sailing and marine destination to continue to attract the most prestigious and biggest events to our waters.”

    Keyworth said: “With Rhode Island’s rich sailing tradition, proven track record of hosting some of the world’s top events, and our commitment to improving our facilities, we are poised to continue to be a venue of choice for the best and fastest events in the sport of sailing for decades to come.”

    For the Volvo Ocean Race, seven competing boats, perhaps eight, are expected to be in Newport from May 3 to May 17, 2015, when the seventh leg of the race — the 3,222-mile trip from Newport to Lisbon — will begin. The boats will arrive in Newport from Itajai, Brazil, where the 5,765-mile, sixth leg of the race will begin on April 19.

    Other ports of call for what is considered sailing’s most grueling race include: Alicante, Spain, where the voyage begins on Oct. 4, 2014; Cape Town, South Africa; Abu Dhabi, UAE; Sanya, China; Auckland, New Zealand; Lorient, France; and Gothenburg, Sweden, where the race will end by June 27, 2015.

    This is the first time Newport has hosted the Volvo Ocean Race. In the past, organizers favored larger ports such as Miami, Baltimore/Annapolis, New York and Boston.

    Each of the 10 ports that hosted the Volvo Ocean Race in 2011-12 saw an economic impact of between $40 million and $100 million, Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, has said. A total of 2.9 million visitors were at the 10 ports that served as stopovers during that race, he said.

    The state’s Economic Development Corp. released a report early in 2013 saying the 2012 America’s Cup World Series had a direct economic impact of $23.5 million in sales to Rhode Island businesses.

    The figure did not include spending by Rhode Island residents, according to the report by Planning Decisions Inc. of Portland, Maine. The total impact including indirect multipliers was $38.2 million, and the event attracted 65,000 visitors to Fort Adams, the report said.



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