July 9, 2010

Sailing in the Ocean State

Marc Comtois

Yes, we lost the bid to host the America's Cup, but there is still opportunity to grow our economy by focusing on sailing related business.

Warned ahead of time, the state administration immediately took a positive perspective, saying that Rhode Island is likely to host preliminary races that could become as big a benefit as the actual Cup defense....Keith Stokes, head of the state Economic Development Corporation and the leading state official on the issue, said the trials to select the Cup defender could involve several yachting syndicates.

Stokes said in an interview that the preliminary races in some ways offer a better opportunity than the final Cup challenge. Given the potential for multi-year events, “that provides a longer-term and stable economic opportunity.”

It would give Rhode Island time to re-build the sailing infrastructure required to host such events and, perhaps eventually have those facilities in place to make a strong bid to host a future America's Cup race. One thing we do have is a natural bay that is well-suited to sailing.
Long-time yachting expert Halsey Herreshoff, president of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame, said he sees another, long-term bright side to the situation: Newport is an excellent place to sail. Once current America’s Cup sailors find that out through sailing preliminary races here, he reasons, they’ll want to come back for future Cup competitions.
Bidding for the next America's Cup race was a long-shot and, though certainly worth a try, was akin to the sort of one-time fixes we're apt to try for here in Rhode Island. Hopefully this will indeed be a blessing in disguise and we'll seize on the heightened awareness that the sailing industry could be a bigger boon to the Ocean State. Whoda thunk?

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RI is horrible at marketing itself. Did anyone have any idea that there is a half ironman triathlon going on in RI this Sunday? Probably not, as I have not seen it advertised anywhere. Granted it's not much of a spectator sport, but it is amazing to see that many people hit the water at once, see how fast they are on their bikes and running. It's pretty amazing.

Posted by: Patrick at July 9, 2010 9:58 AM


The attempt to bring the America’s Cup back to Newport is wishful thinking.

Keith Stokes trying to lobby for cup trials to be held in RI sound is a stretch of the imagination because the infrastructure in Newport to support the cup races is gone. Most all of the waterfront has been turned into condominiums.

Gone are the days of the single hull 12 meter yachts. The current boats are very large catamarans and trimarans with masts up to twenty stories high plus hull size of 114ft long by 90 ft wide. Try running that through a full Newport harbor.

Newport harbor does not have neither the space nor the dockage and sail loft space to accommodate. Some people indicate moving things to Jamestown, Quonset Point or Ben Boat Basin and even the old still active Navy piers in Newport. Headquarters for each respective syndicate would have to be located or constructed as well as housing for the crew and support personal. These new boats sport more fiber- optics and computer power built in than most homes PCs have!

Some US Navy vessels had to drop antennas to get under the Newport Bridge. The question is will the mast of the new class of America’s Cup boats fit under at high tide?

The harbor and dockage at Valencia, Spain where the last cup races were held is gigantic and was well suited for the new style boats. There was plenty of support building along the harbor and dockage areas. Photographs show the BMW Oracle boat having the mast fitted to the ball laying on the dock while the boat is tied to the dockage. The mast is about 185 ft. long but the wing sail is 223 ft, long. They lay the mast almost 90 degrees over to do maintenance on it and the sail while still attached to the boat.

San Francisco has a very large harbor and there is plenty of room and infrastructure and support for the cup challenge.

There is one saving grace in that under the rules the challenger has the right to select the type of boat. Single hull or multi-hull. If they go back to the single hull then Newport has a chance but if they stay with the large multi-hulls I can’t see how it will work in Newport however Newport still must rebuild the infrastructure which it has lost. So like a good old Wendy’s commercial; “Where’s the beef”? WHERE’S THE MONEY?

Posted by: Ken at July 9, 2010 6:58 PM

Well, Ellison bought a house here....so at least there is some economic activity tied to the sailing.

I must admit some bias, but think that the Newport Area is the finest sailing grounds on the entire east coast. Deep water, nice wind, a lack of power boats, no bugs...did I mention no bugs?

I would just as well it stay our little secret. Those in the know can slowly gravitate this way, the others can fight traffic in the Bay Area or the heat, bugs and sandy shallows in the Chesapeake.

Posted by: Stuart at July 10, 2010 1:03 PM


I don’t know where you are hanging out in Newport but my mother in-law’s the bug zapper is hard at work just off of Thames St. and during yard BBQs the bug spray must be applied!

I spent many years sailing Narragansett Bay on friend’s sailboats and as a volunteer crewman on the historical Schooner Ernestina out of New Bedford. It is as you say a great area for sailing.

However Narragansett Bay and RI sound were discovered by recreational and sports sailors long ago and that is why the America’s Cup was hosted in Newport for nearly 50 years! But when the cup left developers moved in and converted the sailing infrastructure into condominiums, time-shares, restaurants and shops.

There is some bright news in that the America’s Cup design committees are looking at the next challenger hull specifications and they are tweaking specifications back from 26m (82 feet) LOA to 22m (72 feet) for cost reductions. Decision on single hull or multi-hull designs will be made after test sailings are completed in Valencia, Spain end of this July.

The America’s Cup Harbor and facilities in Valencia, Spain is just spectacular not only for the spectator but also for the syndicates, crews, support staff and news media! Valencia, Spain facilities set a new standard for the America’s Cup and there is no way RI could afford or find the space to duplicate even ½ of Valencia’s America’s Cup Harbor.

With the reduced hull size that may put Newport back in the running for trails however still no infrastructure to support the cup are in place and there is no state money and I don’t think City of Newport is flush with extra dollars to spend!

One big question in my mind is would I want to train in the waters and wind conditions of the east coast when the race is going to be on the west coast? Yes I can do some preliminary shake out on the east coast but I better learn the conditions and work on the west coast where the actual race will be held.

Posted by: Ken at July 10, 2010 7:01 PM

you have a great blog here! would you like to make some invite posts on my blog?

Posted by: Carroll B. Merriman at December 9, 2012 4:52 AM
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