Baltimore Press

Baltimore to Host Ocean Race

At a press conference yes­terday at The Baltimore World Trade Center, Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend announced that Baltimore would host the Volvo Ocean Race, formerly the Whitbread Race, in 2002.

Townsend read from a pre­pared speech, stating that the race “allows us to touch the adventurous spirit.” and that “it has always been the seaside nations that push civilization forward, but at the same time, sailing makes you humble.” She also said that she had been “a sailor all my life,” and that she once participated in the Miami-Nassau ocean sailing race, although as a cook.

At the end of her speech, ESPN commentator Gary Jobson joked “can I get a copy of that speech?”
It was left to Helge Alten, Chief Executive of Volvo Ocean Race, to supply the particulars. In 1998, the Whitbread race drew over 500,000 people to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and produced nearly $26 Million in rev­enue gain for the economies of Baltimore and Annapolis, the second host on the Chesapeake River. “It was quite clear to Volvo and Whitbread that Baltimore was the best stop,” Alten said, “we know the organization.”

Although Alten would not divulge the names of other ports to be included in the around-the-world sailing race, he did admit that another US port would be announced today, and that there would be layovers in the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Those countries were chosen, Alten said, largely because the sailing syndicates had business interests in them. The race would finish near Northern Germany, the original home of Volvo.

Alten, a former chairman of Volvo Cars North America, addressed the issue of Ford’s recent purchase of Volvo’s line of automobiles, and the question of influence. “I would be sur­prised to see any Ford name.” he said, continuing by saying that the most likely contribution Ford will offer is a racing crew and sailboat. Volvo Holding, the race owner, is joint­ly owned by Ford and Volvo. The company still independently produces a line of trucks. [Volvo recently awarded a truck dealership to Baltimore busi­nessman Ed Hale, who operates from a waterfront site in Canton.]
Annapolis Mayor Dean L. Johnson also spoke at yesterday’s press confer­ence.

Baltimore is attempting to replicate last year’s Whitbread success by staging a Waterfront Festival between April 29th and May 2nd. According to City Hall, highlights will include the Inner Harbor Invitational, a rowing regatta, and a Special Olympics Sailing Demonstration. The American Visionary Arts is holding a Kinetic Sculpture Race on Saturday, May 1. According to their promotional materi­al: “In the ever-vigilant search for local genius, [the museum] presents a race that confounds all good sense and counsel.” The race is to begin at Federal Hill Park at 10AM and will finish at a “island of lost sock crea­tures.”

The Whitbread race began in 1973, then and now as the only round-the-world yacht race. It has been held every four years. Last year’s was the seventh race. Whether Chessie—the racing yacht from Maryland which competed in Whitbread 1998—will compete in 2002 is not yet known. George Collins, Chessie’s financier, is said to be looking for a corporate sponsorship.

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