PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Newport will host an America's Cup World Series regatta next summer, three decades after sailing's most storied race left the Ocean State. The event will run from June 23 to July 1 and is expected to feature top international sailors ahead of the 2013 America's Cup race in San Francisco.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced the event Friday and said it will boost tourism while showcasing Rhode Island before an international audience. He predicted the regatta would someday lead to the return of the America's Cup race.
More than 100,000 people are expected to attend the regatta. Sailing teams and event officials have already reserved 4,800 hotel rooms. State tourism officials said the event may be the largest held in Newport since the 1983 America's Cup race. "Rhode Island needs events like this," said House Speaker Gordon Fox, D-Providence. "It puts us -- this little state of ours -- on a world stage." Newport hosted the America's Cup for decades until 1983. Hosting one of the World Series events has been a goal since the state learned it lost a bid to host the 2013 Cup.
"Newport has a big part to play in the future of the America's Cup," said Richard Worth, chairman of the America's Cup Event Authority. Worth spoke to state leaders Friday via video from Portugal, where the inaugural World Series regatta is under way. "We expect a spectacular success." The state will accelerate work to upgrade Fort Adams State Park to host the event, according to Keith Stokes, executive director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation. The state had already committed to spending $1.4 million on improvements to make the historic seaside fort more conducive to large events. The work includes new utilities, road improvements and parking, along with moorings for boats. The America's Cup Event Authority created the World Series to lead up to the 2013 Cup race. The series consists of regattas around the world and features 45-foot catamarans built for speed and agility. The races are intended to be fast, dramatic and easily watched from shore.
"This is Formula 1 on the water," said Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport, a nonprofit public sailing center. "It's fast, it's wet ... Imagine yourself driving through a carwash at 40 miles per hour with your head out of the sunroof." The overall winner of the series will be named at Newport because it's the final regatta of the sequence. Officials likened it to hosting the final game of baseball's World Series. "Rhode Island is the true historical home for the America's Cup, and I'm glad that these World Series races will be taking place in our beautiful City by the Sea," said U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in a statement. "The arrival of the America's Cup World Series races next year will be a great boost to our state's economy, with the tourism and revenues it creates." For state officials more accustomed to discussing unemployment rates and government deficits, Friday's announcement was a reason to celebrate.
"We're proud of our sailing here," said Chafee, who attended the 1983 America's Cup. "Since 1983, we've been waiting for it to come back."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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